The Commonwealth Games is a combination of sports, enterprise and social justice. I was a volunteer at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and I had a really great time as a sports volunteer. I found it to be a way of increasing my social connections, building relationships with the Scottish communities, looking for commercial opportunities for archery and leaving a lasting legacy for the Commonwealth Games impact in Glasgow and throughout Scotland. This might sound like a politicisation of sports, especially for this politics website, but it’s actually a way of showing how sport can have an impact on people and communities.
What brought me to write this was to increase coverage of my own campaign that is linked to the Commonwealth Games . In November 2014 I launched a campaign to make archery a core sport in the Commonwealth Games programme. I set up a petition online and with persistence I got over 1300 people to sign it. In the process I started to use my political activism and entrepreneurial spirit to push the campaign through using my creativity to innovate new ways of selling the sport that I love. This was to show just what kind of impact a sport event like the Commonwealth Games could have.
My progress in running this campaign has been considerably slow. The reason for this was uncovered through my journey and it shed some light on the value of minority sports and their usefulness to communities. As it happens archery is a minority sport including some of the others in the Games like squash, netball, rowing, badminton and lawn bowls. What makes these sports so under represented is exactly the same kind of problem that woman categories of major sports have. They lack commercial interest from the broadcasters and there is not enough demand for them. In my campaign I found that archery in particular wasn’t going to make it as a core sport by arguing for equality of representation in the Commonwealth Games, I had to sell it with a useful edge.
An online petition wasn’t enough, I had to show them some significance that archery had that demonstrated it’s purpose as well as my passion. Minority sports don’t have big revenues and commercial because the people who work in them don’t know how to sell them effectively. Football, boxing, rugby and cricket are run by people with good strong business acumen that helps to commercialise effectively. Minority sports on the other hand are run by people who have backgrounds in public services, charity, healthcare and administration. Not the kind of people you’d need for making a minority sport look cool.
As part of my campaign I started to develop a business that combined my passion for archery, inventing and social activism. In the process I wrote a report on archery’s usefulness and it’s impact to the Commonwealth Games to make it a core sport. From within that report I demonstrated some very useful selling strategies to help promote archery and bring into the mainstream, worthy of recognition as a core sport. At the moment the archery community is capitalising on the success of blockbuster films and TV shows that celebrate archery. But that will only last as long as the novelty continues to grow. What minority sports need in order to grow is to realise their selling potential.
Now as it stands archery and the other minority sports are trying to make their mark through capital gains on popular culture like the Hunger Games and the Olympics. But what about the social aspect of minority sports and their impact on society? The way I see it archery isn’t just a sport it’s a social tool with a means to bring the Commonwealth nations together through mutual cooperation and shared culture. It brings participation on a big scale to local communities that are lacking in sport activity.
This is where the potential of the sport can be realised for it to make money and understand what kind of business it’s about. You don’t sell it as a commercial sport, you sell it as a social enterprise sport. This achieves two things. First it brings the communities into a vibrant active social scene that benefits the town, and second it leads to commercial opportunities for archery so that the equipment makers and media companies have something to make something themselves. This will make a long term appreciation and fandom of the sport that will lead to a business that will grow and grow. That’s how you can make money in minority sports.
The Woman’s Cricket World Cup has seen a growing interest in woman’s sports with record viewing figures on TV of 1.1 million and a sell out crowd of 26’500 people at Lord Cricket Ground. Archery was the most watched 2012 Olympic sport on American TV, lawn bowls has a regular slot on BBC TV during it’s World Cup and yet there doesn’t seem to be a permanent platform for minority sports on TV. The market potential is all there to be taken and unless the networks see an opportunity minority sports will continue to be a success story in the wilderness. By adopting the social enterprise method, minority sports can increase their exposure and inspire millions of people to embrace the variety of sports that will improve inclusion over time.