The current issue of the CIPR’s Influence magazine has an interesting article by Mihir Bose on the reputation of sports stars. One case study mentioned is that of Victoria Pendleton, the Olympic cyclist who rode as a jockey at the Cheltenham Festival.
As Bose points out, the whole exercise was a PR stunt funded by an online bookmaker. Because Pembleton has a positive and scandal free reputation, the media coverage was very favourable to her with her fifth place finish getting more coverage than the actual race winner!
With the 2016 European Championships now upon us, it will be interesting to see what sort of stunts various companies use to try and jump on the football bandwagon. Already there is one TV ad, again for an online bookie, which suggests that fans in Scotland will be betting against England. The ad relies so heavily on lazy stereotypes such as the Krankies and deep fried Mars Bars that I suspect that it runs the risk of offending people on both sides of Hadrian’s Wall.
It perhaps says something about our society that most of the promotional activity around Euro 2016 seems to concentrate on the two Bs; beer and betting. Sadly, the two Bs are likely to drown out the good work being done by local authorities and NHS Trusts to try and encourage more people to actually participate in sport rather than watch it down the pub with a pint in their hands. The brewer and the bookies have large budgets which public sector bodies simply can’t compete with.
With the Olympic Games starting in August, not to mention Wimbledon, the Ryder Cup and Test Cricket, there will be plenty of opportunities this summer to put out positive messages encouraging people to get active and take up sport. After all, there’s more to a glorious sporting summer than beer and betting, isn’t there?