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Are we all just the same? Really?

I was chatting to a fellow dad of 2 on a holiday tennis court, we live in the same suburb, have similar jobs, same age, education, etc.

But our relationship with tennis was VERY different.

We both expressed an interest in joining a club back home, I immediately started to think will I be good enough (I'm average at tennis!), I don't have a decent racket, etc... while he was debating the quality of various court surfaces, the benefits of a 'UTS rating', what format 'Pennant' was being played in, and if he could get his racket strung to a certain 'tension'.

Which thanks to my work, I knew what he was talking about, but it wasn't what I was thinking about!

Different people, different things

My point is, on the outside, according to the demographics, we are both very much the same.

But what we were needing and expecting from a tennis experience was vastly different.

From a demographics view, on paper, we are almost identical, and yet, the way we live our lives is different, and the way we think about sport and activity, is very, very different.

Take Ben and Tom who I called out in my book.

Ben cycles or runs to work every day, plays tennis every Wednesday and plays golf most Sundays. He averages about 14,000 steps a day, according to his smartwatch, and he tracks his sleep and diet with interest. Most of his friendships are based around his sporting activities, and when he isn’t active with his buddies, he’s talking or thinking about what he has just experienced or might do next. He is what we might call a fully signed-up and practising member of an active lifestyle.

Tom, on the other hand... can’t recall the last time he rode a bike, moved faster than walking pace, and, aside from when he makes up answers to the doctor’s questions at his annual check-up, doesn’t think much about what he eats or moves, and certainly doesn’t talk much about how little he moves.

Look inside people to really understand them

We often describe our target audience by demographics, as that gives us easy labels to place on people. 'Youth', 'Women', 'Gen X', 'Corporates', 'Disabled', good old 'Millennials' etc. etc. markets are common targets for our sports and programs. And that logic isn’t wrong; the demographic profiles can provide useful groupings and signposts for us to reference.

But behind these caricatures, these 'Youth', 'Women' and 'Gen X' are more than just demographics.

Going deeper than the data

If you peel back these demographics, you can build a more realistic persona that will tell you a more compelling story of what these people really want, and don’t want, of what they really think they can and can’t do.

And then, the most relevant insight of all, is what they may think about our activities, how they feel about you, if they even know you at all.

Who is a good prospect to be involved in your sport or event, and who is not?

I talk more about Ben, Tom, and many others, in my new book.

If you'd like to read more please check out a free sample of my book here or buy it here.

How to find your 'target market'.

When you set out to design (or re-design) your sports experience, you must first know who your activity is for and what it is for. Participants, players, athletes, supporters, volunteers, members, fans, audiences, partners, stakeholders, customers, or consumers. Whoever they are, and whatever you call them, it all comes back to people, and, what they really want.

All our activities, programs or events must start by connecting with the individual — the participant, member, or supporter.

And to do so you must know why they want to connect with your activity or program and what will bring them together. And then, as you start to deliver your program, events, and sessions, you must keep focused on the people, who they are.

What they want, and what they really need.

Different people expect different things

When we are getting to know your people, the most important thing for you to know is what your participants, members, and volunteers think of you. By understanding the state of the relationship they have with your activity, with your organisation or sport, or the active world more broadly, you will be looking at much more relevant and valuable information than any other data.

These insights are important because if someone new to your activity, being just aware of it and yet to establish a relationship with it, they have a vastly different set of needs from someone who is a loyal advocate. Someone who has never participated before has a whole different list of desires and fears than those of an expert.

Conversely, the hardcore activist for your activity (or your sport, or an active lifestyle) doesn’t want to be told what they already know, and they are operating with higher-level needs than someone just finding their way. They want more in-depth information, to have something new or a next step put in front of them. So just like in any human relationship, you need to relate to your audience on a personal level based on the state of the relationship they have with you — how long it has been, how connected and committed it is — and based on what they expect of you.

An example?

Nike She Runs.

Starting in Sydney and spreading globally in various forms in the years that followed, She Runs was an award-winning campaign that we created, offering a ten-kilometre or longer running event at the end of a twelve-week training journey.

And while a running event was the focal point, it meant much more, and became more than a one-off event for many.

‘She Runs’ was more of a call to action to a way of life, and it brought together many like-minded women who thought about things in a certain way.

For many young women, the campaign was an expression of what 'they' believed in; the need for connection and community, supporting each other to an active lifestyle.

It was something fun she could share with some people she was close to, but even more than that, it also spoke to the empowerment of women.

The events sold out for several years, connecting Nike with their consumers and bringing them together again and again.

The award-winning Nike She Runs case study.

Nike achieved this by being very clear on what She Runs was, who it was for, and what they would gain from being involved.

The experience was designed to say something, to be for someone, and how they saw themselves.

She Runs was a call to action for young women, to take over the streets, on mass, providing a sense of togetherness, and making a statement, and it was deliberately longer than the standard five-kilometre run, as it was about striving, to push the boundaries.

Importantly and deliberately, it was also a run at night, to take on the fears of running alone, providing support for those that wanted it. This was all intentional by Nike, as they had asked Her what She needed, researching and listening to what would drive Her and to what was holding Her back.

So, they understood Her, but importantly, Nike also designed and delivered an active experience that deeply met and exceeded Her personal expectations (and set a new standard of expectations for active experiences).

Nike made it personal, and shareable, by providing personalised and shareable touch points, from basic things like 'her' name on her running shirt, and, alongside everyone else’s names on a giant billboard, to more involved features like a message from friends on video screens during the run, and a personalised video recap of her experience after the run.

Some of this was complex and unique, some of it quite simple, and is often repeated now. But the powerful point is that all of this was designed and provided in order to make her know this was for her, not just for anyone.

When we genuinely connect with people, on an individual level, we can have an immense influence on them.

You might be doing that already, but if you think I can help you and your team, please let me know.

Let's start creating a more active world, together. Getting more people involved in your sport or events - more often, for longer!

I caught up with Tim Wood at a Sport Experience Immersion session we organised with VicSport.

Tim was head of Brand Experience at Nike Aus/NZ when we designed She Runs.

In the session Tim (and fellow ex-Nike guru Shane Rose) provided insights into how leading brands create and nurture experiences, and these mindsets and strategies can be applied by you!

We've been running popular workshops recently where attendees actually actively participate in the session and then reflect on it afterwards.

The response and results have been amazing.

Some questions for you to answer, and check with your team:

Who is your session, event or program for? Who are the different types of people?

Who are the most important to you?

What do each of these groups think about your organisation?

What do they think about your sessions, events or programs?

Can you define them, can you build a real-life persona of them?

What influence do you need to have on each of them now? And what next?

What journey can you take them on? Where do you want to end up with them?

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