Loughborough goes to Gold Coast

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By Pete Matthews, PR Officer (Sport) at Loughborough University

Here at Loughborough University sport is at the heart of pretty much everything we do and so celebrating our success at major Games such as the Olympics, Paralympics or Commonwealths is pretty natural, right?
Four years on from a home Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where if Loughborough was a country we’d have finished 11th on the medal table, we wondered how Gold Coast 2018, with its time difference and other complexities, would appeal to the British public. Although both London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 are but distant memories and the build-up was slow, one thing is still very clear – Britain loves sport.

Setting out with a top line objective of raising the profile of Loughborough University through its involvement in Games, we also wanted to celebrate the diversity of athletes and staff representing the university, engage with our students & staff and use our success to inspire the next generation.

As with all of our campaigns here at Loughborough, many of which are award winning, we use SMART goals to help us focus on the steps we need to take to ensure we achieve positive and measurable outcomes.
Once a plan was in place the first stage of our campaign involved the creation of a bespoke microsite: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/sport/goldcoast2018/news/loughborough-hockey-out-in-force-at-commonwealth/ featuring profiles of all the athletes we had competing at the Games, videos, in-depth features, the latest news and even the option to support Loughborough University’s Sports Scholarship fund.

This last point demonstrates the breadth of the campaign, which had a direct and in-direct impact on prospective students, current students, the wider Loughborough community, alumni and general sports fans.
Linking the website to our other digital platforms saw the creation of a Gold Coast twitter account @LboroGC2018 for the blow-by-blow coverage, whilst everything else was shared across existing sport, alumni and main university channels. Previous campaigns have taught us that this is our audience’s preference; top-level updates readily available but with full detail available on a standalone account for those 2,000+ followers who want it.

After plotting our campaign timeline we decided on three distinct content types in the build-up the Games starting, with daily coverage and recycling of content taking over from there on in. The three aforementioned content types were:

1) Preview content – video and written features profiling the key Loughborough athletes and their stories. Given the limited, if not zero access afforded to us once the action was underway, it is essential to get this in advance, to both allow us to start building our narrative and so that it can be repurposed when they’re in action...

2) Evergreen content – for 2018 we settled on a #MyRoutine theme, having seen success with similar types of content in the past. Simply put, this is a series of video features that give viewers a behind the scenes look into what a typical day looks like for our sporting starts. This content will run and run…

3) Crowd-sourced content – linked to our evergreen content using #MyRoutine, we got students and athlete to share their Loughborough routines on social, driving up engagement and ensuring the non-elite population could relate to the Commonwealth Games and in particular our campaign

A lot of time but very little money was spent in preparation for when the action gets underway, but without this ground work success during the Games would be much more difficult. Once the action started ‘down under’ it was all hands to the pump, with live tweets, graphics showing who’s in action and highlighting medal winners and daily wrap ups. None of this is rocket science, but we just try to give people the information they want in the way they want it presented. It’s then up to them if they want to amplify our good news.

As the world’s number one University for sports related subjects, it is extremely important reputationally that we lead the way, and to bolster our campaign we drew upon academics from across campus to share their thoughts. Whether it’s doing TV or radio interviews on key breaking stories or sharing pieces of research that directly link to the Games, we try to engage with as many different academic schools as possible.

Applying previous learnings was another thing we feel we did well this time around. On reflection, live coverage during Rio 2016, when the vast majority of our audience were asleep, didn’t add much value, so we took this and a number of other things on board and put them into practice. As the medals started to pour in we were primed and ready to capitalise and the results we achieved proved just that.

Thinking back to that Rio 2016 campaign, which won a number of awards including a CASE Grand Gold, we were delighted that our engagements on twitter were up for Gold Coast, despite the Games being over a shorter time frame. Overall across our digital platforms we had a reach of 29.1m with engagements just short of 30k. LinkedIn is often a forgotten platform only used by those looking for a new job – it shouldn’t be as we received in excess of a quarter of a million impressions on that platform alone!

Sticking with the stats our daily press releases and academic input saw a news reach of 27.9m, no fewer than 113 countries engaging with our campaign, whilst our video content received 377k views and counting.
Video is key in this day and age, so I thought I’d finish up with a fun fact; it would take nearly 120 return flights from Loughborough to Gold Coast for one person to watch the amount of video content our audience consumed – that’s 269 days worth!

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