Assessing the Public Profile of Major Sports Events: A Case Study of the European Short Course Swimming Championships

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

This paper examines the "public profile "of the European Short Course Swimming Championships achieved via dedicated television coverage. The research project was funded by UK Sport (the brand name for the United Kingdom Sports Council) as part of its evaluation of sports events funded by the World Class Events Programme (WCEP). In broad terms this initial monitoring of an event's television coverage has revealed some interesting and perhaps unexpected findings. The key finding is that the event achieved television audiences that were greater than some sports generally perceived as having larger audiences than swimming. Most notably, audiences for the European Short Course Swimming Championships exceeded those for some rugby union international matches as well as prestigious events in the rugby league and cricket calendars.

From the perspective of both governing bodies and sponsors, the analysis shown enables a clearer value of the sponsorship property to be acquired before any financial commitments are made. The literature suggests that the sponsorship industry has been relatively slow to use such an analysis when compared with the advertising industry.

The technique for reporting the television coverage achieved by major sports events demonstrated in this paper can be replicated easily and cheaply by practitioners from information already in the public domain (the BARB system). In the UK, the technique can be used to demonstrate the "public profile" achieved by a major sporting event. The significance of "public profile" is that it is one of the "prioritisation criteria" used by UK Sport in deciding whether to use National Lottery funding to support an event.

The European Short Course Swimming Championships achieved coverage in 18 programmes or programme segments lasting 1,087 minutes which were broadcast in the UK and mainland Europe. A total of nearly 8 million viewers across the UK and Europe watched coverage of the event. The highest audience share was achieved in the UK (23%) and the highest TVR (Television Rating) was achieved in Finland, where 9% of the country's population watched recorded highlights of the event.

In the four weeks either side of the event, the swimming TVR was second only to Final Score and Football Focus on BBC1's main sport programme, Grandstand. Although there is evidence that viewing figures for swimming may be "propped up" by football enthusiasts in between halftime and full time, elite swimming events have achieved a TVR of more than 4% in their own right.

With what are in effect subsidies provided to major sporting events via the Sports Lottery Fund and favourable prime time television slots offered by the BBC, the sponsorship of seemingly minority sports such as swimming can have considerable commercial benefits at highly advantageous "property" costs.

Keywords: Public Profile, Dedicated Television Broadcasts, National Lottery Funding

Introduction

In February 1999, UK Sport launched its "UK Strategy for Major Sports Events" at Lords Cricket Ground (UK Sport, 1999). The strategy is designed to co-ordinate the activity necessary to bid for and stage major sporting events in the UK. The Lottery Sports Fund "World Class Events Programme" is a key tool for the delivery of the Strategy. Lottery funding will be provided for both the bidding and staging of selected major events. However, events will only be selected for lottery funding if it can be shown that the UK bid to stage the event stands a good chance of success and also that staging the event in the UK will generate "significant benefits". The potential public profile of the event is one of the important "prioritisation criteria" used by UK Sport in deciding whether or not to provide financial support to the event. The term "public profile" is not defined by UK Sport in its World Class Events Application Form (WCEAF) and supporting documentation. …

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