Elevate 2017 - Speaker interview with Sue

Posted 16.12.2016


In the next of the series of interviews with confirmed speakers for Elevate 2017, our MD and a founding Trustee at the Women’s Sport Trust, Sue Anstiss, was asked a few questions about targeting women and girls.

Great news from Sport England this week that the numbers of women taking part in sport has increased. Why do you think that is?

“Undoubtedly Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign had a significant impact on changing perceptions about exercise for women this year. That said, it’s been the great work of many national governing bodies of sport, leisure operators, event organisers and charities that have then made sport and physical activity more accessible for women and girls. For example, an extraordinary 9 million people tuned in to watch our magnificent GB Women’s Hockey team win Gold in Rio, but it’s the behind the scenes work of England Hockey that builds on those inspirational scenes and translates them into real women and girls playing at hockey clubs and schools up and down the country with campaigns like Back to Hockey and HockeyFest. A strong engaging message that resonates with the target audience coupled with appealing, accessible activity results in a real win / win situation. This is what we’ve seen more of in 2016.”

What’s the best way to reach women and girls?

“We’ve seen a huge shift towards social media activity in our work targeting women and girls – more so than in our work targeting men.

Whilst traditional women’s lifestyle magazines, newspapers and broadcast media are still a key route for us, for the majority of events, organisations, brands and venues we represent, our team are just as likely to be sharing engaging content on Instagram or working with influential bloggers as placing articles in print media.

Social media enables us to directly engage with targeted female consumers and better measure the impact of our activity.”

Female elite sporting role models can clearly be a massive inspiration. Why don’t we see more of them?

“Why indeed.

Some of the broadcast media are getting better at sharing high quality footage of women’s sports – but overall the national newspapers are still dreadful. Every day you can read pages and pages of sports coverage in the broadsheets and tabloids and you’ll be lucky to find mention or image of a female (unless she’s someone’s attractive girlfriend).

It’s good to see BBC, Sky and BT Sport doing more in this area – committing to ongoing coverage of sports like Netball, Women’s Cricket, Hockey and Football – but that said, only last month it was hugely shocking to discover there was no mainstream broadcast coverage of the England Women’s Rugby game against Canada. It was a re-run of the World Cup Final (which England won) and a brilliantly entertaining game to watch.

How can we inspire young girls to play rugby (or any sport) if they can’t visualise what they might achieve in the future? How many young boys are out kicking a football around because they want to be the next Jamie Vardy or Gareth Bale? If we’re going to get more young women playing sport, then we need to ensure they can see inspiring role models.”

How would you change this? Will it change?

“The media respond that they are simply meeting the demand from their readers / viewers and showing what people want to see, but in reality, they could do so much more. Only by consistently broadcasting high quality female sport will they start to attract loyal audiences.

The very fact that 9 million people tuned in to watch the women’s hockey final in Rio (many in preference to the football on the other side) shows that people will watch female sport if they feel a real affinity to a team and players and are rooting for them to win.”

Pink whistles and nice smelling bibs. There’s been a bit of a media outcry about the FA’s new tips for targeting girls this week – what do you think?

“It’s a complex challenge that’s been blown out of proportion by the media. The FA recommendations were well meaning and an attempt to target girls that currently wouldn’t consider playing football.

We should all be concerned that there’s such a massive drop off for girls playing sport in school. By the age of 14, only 1 in 10 girls are doing enough physical activity to benefit their health, compared with roughly twice the number of boys of the same age.

If allowing girls to play in regular kit, wear clean bibs and try different more accessible formats of the game makes football more appealing to them that that must be a positive thing.

In an ideal world, we’d love all girls of all ages to feel comfortable getting sweaty and muddy playing sports and school, but sadly that’s just not the case. If I had a magic wand I’d change society so it was just as acceptable for girls to enjoy all sports as much as boys, confident to participate without any fear of judgement. Sadly, that’s not where we are right now, but hopefully more high profile sporting role models can help.

We’ve just launched the TeamUp campaign with England Hockey, Netball and the ECB, which sees these three innovative governing bodies uniting to maximise the legacy of three home World Cups and build a fan base for women’s team sports.

The campaign has an ambitious target to ensure 150,000 7-13-year-old girls have more access to team sport, with over 5,000 participating schools each year increasing their offer of team sports for girls with at least 60% providing all three sports – cricket, hockey AND netball.

Along with a novel rewards scheme for schools, TeamUp, which is delivered in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust, has already done a great job of using the elite athletes from national squads as inspirational role models. Find out more here

What will you be discussing at Elevate 2017?

“I will be part of a panel discussing how we can target diverse audiences. I’ll be sharing some of the work we’ve done as an agency to reach women and girls for our clients and outlining some of the Women’s Sport Trust’s current and future campaigns.”

Who should attend your presentation and why?

“Anyone with an interest in getting women and girls more active in 2017 and beyond.”

Finally, if you could win an Olympic gold medal, which sport would you choose and why?

“Netball. It’s not yet an Olympic sport, but maybe in my lifetime…”

For more info on Elevate 2017 or to register for free, click here

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