The basis of my work is to get more people to play sport by making it fun, easy and popular. Hence the name – Make Sport Fun.
That lovely, but what does it mean? Why am I so set on this? After all, some people say that health promotion isn’t fun – it’s a serious matter. It’s because fun, easy and popular are the everyday words for some very well-tested and effective social marketing concepts.
In scientific circles fun is perceived benefits, easy is self-efficacy and popular is social normalcy. Okay, so they’ve got posh-sounding names. But how do they help get people to play more sport?
Fun “Will I enjoy doing it?”
Easy “Can I do it? Am I capable?”
Popular “What do the people I care about think about it?”
If we’re going to focus on making sport fun then we need to focus on what our target audience enjoy
about it. For example most people play football in order to spend time with their mates and for the competition. These are the benefits that they’re most interested in and which will be most likely to get them to come and play. Therefore we’ll get the best results if we focus on how people can spend more time with their mates and enjoy the competition.
There’s very little point promoting that playing football is going to stop them having a heart attack in 40 years. Heath is about 4th on this groups list of priorities.
This is all about breaking down the barriers that stop people from taking part. Some of these barriers are actual and some are in people’s heads. They’re both important.
One option is to run campaigns which convince people that it’s easy to take part. This will probably work, but often we can go one step better.
If we can find out what the biggest barriers are for that group then we can try to address them. If the problem is that they don’t know where to play then let’s make it easy to find where to play. Let’s provide text message alerts for teenagers and directories for older people.
If the problem is not knowing how to play then let’s provide coaching sessions or coaching videos on YouTube.
Few people like to be the odd one out and no-one likes to look stupid. If people are worried that they’ll be the worst person there, or that people will laugh at them then they’re unlikely to go. Even if they want to play the sport, and know where to go then this can still stop them.
This can be addressed by helping people to make friends at local clubs. This is being done with school-age children by literally walking them to the local sports club. However taster sessions, roadshows and encouraging members to bring their friends are all equally effective. A good way to encourage this is to run training sessions for clubs which sell them on the benefits of being friendlier and more welcoming to new members.
So if making sport fun, easy and popular is so effective then why does health promotion so often end up making it boring, difficult and lonely? That’s a post all in and of itself.