If someone says "you belong here", or, they make you feel like you do, how does that make you feel? Probably pretty good, because it's possible that a feeling of belonging is the most powerful force in whether people want to be involved in something, or not. This is important for our events and sports, as ultimately we are trying to get a group of like-minded people to come together to share an experience together. And whether they do come, or not, may simply come down to whether you show them, or tell them, that they belong.
We belong together
Humans have always needed to gather, and we have a deep need to connect and feel part of groups of people.
As we all experienced through the pandemic, when the ability to connect was lost, we appreciated how important it was.
And so now that we can come back together, embracing a sense of belonging is what many of our audiences are looking for, right now.
I've been reading an excellent book, Belonging, where Owen Eastwood talks about our universal need to belong, and I think it's highly relevant to our work.
In the book, Owen talks of whakapapa from Maori culture, and how that represents a powerful spiritual belief - that each of us is part of an unbroken and unbreakable chain of people who share a sacred identity and culture.
Which I think is worth keeping in mind in our lives, and in our work.
Owen eloquently explains this as each of us...
'being a part of an unbreakable chain of people going back and forward in time. Back to our first ancestors at the beginning of time and into the future to the end of time. Each of us in this chain of people have our arms interlocked with those on either side of us. We are unbreakable. Together, immortal'. He speaks of how the sun rose and shone on our ancestors, and now it is our time in the sun. And that we will be judged on what we did for our tribe.
Where have we come from? Where are we going together??
You might want to consider this in terms of your role in your organisation, where it has come from, and what your role is, and also, how it applies to the sport or events you are designing and delivering.
Honouring the past, embracing the future
I've been working with a lot of sports and events that have been around for a long time, and are looking to embrace their past, but to be more attractive now, and for the future.
As we know there are many events or sports that are seeing declining interest, engagement or involvement, but, be aware it may be counterproductive to turn our back on what has come before us.
As Owen calls out, understanding what has made us what we are, the sport or event, and how we can respect that, and make the most of it with our time in it, is a good place to start.
And one thing you may want to focus on is how we leverage the past and connect people together, back to those traditions but also with current rituals that we can share together, in the events and experiences we provide.
And before you despair with what you have inherited, you may take some faith in 'The Lindy Effect', which says that the expected lifespan of ideas and popular things is proportional to its age.
That is, the longer something has been around, the more likely it is to stick around. For example, if something has been popular for 100 years there's a good chance it will be around for another hundred years.
Which is something you may want to keep in mind before you throw out what you have.
The tools you can use?
Show me I belong
One key strategy to attracting people to our sports is to show them that they belong and that this sport or event is for them.
That's because when people are looking at whether to sign up for it, there is one question going through their minds.
'Is this for me?'
And that's because we all want to fit in, but more importantly, we don't want to not fit in.
So in our promotions, we must show people 1 thing, and answer that question for them...
"People like you do things like this"
This is a marketing guru Seth Godin's mantra, meaning, that on your website, in your content, we need to show people, people just like the people that you want to come along.
Because when we see people who look like me (or how we'd like to see ourselves!), then we are much more likely to go.
If you can describe the experience like it is something for people like me, then I will want to be there. The alternative is, if I can't see people like me, then I won't see myself there!
And so, our role (I think) is to be bringing people together to make them feel like they belong together. You might have this already, but if I can help you - please do let me know. I've got a mantra driving my work of 'creating a more active world, together', of working with others to achieve our goals, because I know that the more we can all work together, the better it will be.