Sporting history was made in the UK earlier this year when the 2023 International Blind Sport Federation (IBSA) World Games was hosted here for the first time.
Around 1,100 athletes from 63 different countries visited the Midlands to compete across ten sports. This was a seismic event to not only inspire the two million blind and partially sighted people in the UK to take up exercise or sport, but to also change perceptions of the general public too and level the playing field for those with sight loss.
The key missing part of the jigsaw though was having a PR team in place to amplify these messages to the right audiences – and that’s where PLMR Advent came in.
When we were asked to pitch for the project there was a real buzz amongst the team for two reasons.
Firstly, it brought together two sectors that we have strong experience in – sport and events. And, secondly, this was a project which enabled us to simultaneously showcase many strings to our PR bow – press releases, media relations, crisis comms and social media.
After winning a competitive tendering process, we set to work by working with all stakeholders on establishing a set of overarching key messages and target audiences.
An event of this nature had around a dozen different stakeholders – all of whom had slightly different aims – so it was critical that we undertook this initial exercise to ensure that all of the PR we generated delivered value, and to the right audiences.
While developing a story timeline that aligned with key messages, it became clear that using athlete case studies with powerful stories was going to be an instrumental PR tool for us to gain traction before and during the World Games – both editorially and on social media. You still can’t beat human interest stories!
Our engagement with various different national governing bodies saw us unearth ten case studies that enabled us to target national and regional UK media outlets – with the underlying message that there should not be any sporting barriers for those with sight loss.
Examples included judo athlete Evan Molloy, who uses the sport to help fight his epilepsy, and archer Clive Jones, who came across the sport during his rehabilitation from being blinded in an unprovoked attack – these are just two examples of the powerful stories where we were able to use our nose for news to identify and convert these opportunities into appealing content for the media.
We used our media contacts to achieve widespread coverage for Evan’s story, which resulted in a national feature on Sky Sports alongside other athletes we’d pitched. Other coverage included a regional live studio TV interview with BBC Points West and a broadcast package with ITV West Country; a radio interview with BBC Radio Wiltshire; and online and in print with Mail Online, Press Association, BBC News Online, Wiltshire Live, Ireland Live, and Irish News.
Alongside running a pre-event awareness campaign, the PLMR Advent team was also in planning mode for the World Games itself in the weeks leading up to the big event.
This involved creating a media accreditation process for journalists to apply for a media pass to attend the World Games, and creating an online media centre which would host imagery and video from the event itself.
Having raised the profile for many different types of events, we knew that we needed to create a slick process for the media to follow before, during and after the event to maximise opportunities – and the creation of a media accreditation application form, a media welcome pack full of FAQs, and having a physical on-site media desk to hand out media passes and answer queries helped us to achieve this.
And although thankfully we didn’t have to confront any crises during the World Games, we developed a crisis comms protocol – which consisted of some example scenarios and how we would respond to them – so that the organisers had peace of mind that any incidents would be addressed in an efficient and appropriate manner.
All in all, we helped to attract more than 100 global journalists to the World Games, and included physical visits from major UK media outlets such as BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 4, through to GB News and Channel 5. We also had major overseas outlets cover the World Games, including the Times of India, and Pakistan’s GEO News.
Third-party analysis found that over the six-month period that PLMR Advent was promoting the IBSA World Games, the event had more than 33,000 media mentions globally, generating around £83 million worth of advertising value equivalency overall.
We were also responsible for developing social media engagement for the IBSA World Games social media pages which, through creative daily posts, helped us to take the accounts to new heights.
We consistently grew the World Games’ social media channels every month, and August saw us generate more than 1.75 million impressions on X (formerly Twitter), and accrue more than 2,200 new followers across all platforms – all organically.
The 2023 IBSA World Games was a watershed moment for those with sight loss in the UK. It demonstrated to everyone that there should be a level playing field for blind and partially sighted people not just in sport, but in wider society too, and it was an honour for PLMR Advent to have played its part in raising awareness of an event that has laid the foundations for future legacy work in this sector.