How 93ft and Sport:80 are supporting National Governing Bodies of Sport to reboot and thrive in the digital world.
93ft are proud to be Sport:80’s preferred partners for web development and branding.
We’ve worked alongside Sport:80 for NGBs around the world, including USA Archery, British Weightlifting and Inclusive Skating; developing fighting fit sites to meet each organisation’s specific requirements - as well as the needs of their members.
Sports:80’s industry leading sports business management technology combined with 93ft’s expertise and years of experience in web design and development, result in sites that take sports National Governing Bodies (NGBs) in the UK, USA, Europe and Canada to the next level, increasing membership and revenue and future proofing their brand.
Sport finds itself at a unique junction in 2021.
More people than ever are wanting to get active as physical activity becomes not just a way to keep physically healthy, but a lifeline that increases mental health as well - a way to break up the day, get outside and stay physically and mentally healthy.
Conversely, the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020/21 meant that many sports were simply not permitted for the amateur, with pools, gyms and clubs closing their doors to comply with government guidelines. This represents a challenge not just for the NGBs and local clubs, but for members themselves who may feel their membership fees have not represented value for money.
Despite the need and appetite for sport being higher than ever, NGBs have found participation, engagement and, ultimately, revenue has reduced .
And as the countdown to the postponed Tokyo Olympics 2020 begins, NGBs need to capitalise on the momentum they generate to increase their following and memberships.
So how can we ensure we’re making the most of these opportunities in order to survive - and thrive?
Do NGBs need a reboot?
Covid-19 meant that “making up for lost time” is on everyone’s mind, but with many NGB team members being furloughed for extended periods, do NGBs have the resources and planning in place to do it? How can they put coherent and effective plans in place to get off to a running start? How can they ensure they are accessible and welcoming to new members or people who are just considering getting involved?
Whether shielding, or ready and raring to go, NGBs need to offer something for everyone to avoid neglecting or alienating members who could choose not to renew their membership.
However they choose to do this, communication will be key.
People are worried about the potential risks of returning to their sports or taking up new ones. NGBs need clear action plans and robust communication channels to ensure members feel safe and looked after.
Engaging directly with individual members is an avenue that is often explored, but with mixed results. We know with the right creative and digital team, strategy and resources we can achieve better results.
Engaging with their clubs is more common, but in skipping the conversations with individual members are NGBs missing the opportunity to connect, engage and foster a sense of real ownership in their sport?
Increased revenue leads to a sense of security for NGBs that can’t be underestimated - and a diverse income stream is a healthy one. How can NGBs create new and innovative revenue streams that help ensure the future of their sport?
It’s clear that expanding digital reach is a way to catch up on lost progress and momentum from the last year or so, however NGBs need the up-to-the-minute knowledge and expertise to focus and strategise, and avoid wasting resources.
Microsites can help find and drive a wealth of new membership opportunities when used strategically and with clear vision.
When used poorly they detract from the main site, and risk becoming confusing and unfocused but when designed with clear messaging and strong brand positioning in mind they can be incredibly effective, differentiating between elite athletes, beginners and the middle group - and catering for all.
Participants need to feel safe and cared for in their own zone, yet also see the potential for progression. Not an easy task, but one which, done right, will lead to higher overall satisfaction at all levels.
Building and designing websites that can generate their own revenue streams will be a vital step towards guaranteeing survival, and with digital experts like 93ft and Sport:80 to provide the solutions, strategy, hassle-free integration and support, making headway in the digital sphere is fully achievable for NGBs.
Since working with 93ft and Sport:80, USA Archery saw its largest monthly uptake in membership in years. This is a great example of an NGB working across all platforms, from grassroots outreach, through to digital and branding, to increase its reach.
From old favourites like cycling, athletics and swimming, to new Olympic entries like climbing, skateboarding and surfing - we can expect interest and uptake to surge in the wave of momentum following the games.
This is an exciting time that NGBs need to make the most of.
Is the site intuitive and easy to use - even for a first time user? Is it slimmed down and manageable to navigate? How easy is it to find and start with a local club or coach for a beginner?
Single sign-on (SSO), is an area Sport:80 and 93ft focus on. The ability for members, coaches and internal teams to login to protected areas of the website with the click of a button streamlines the user experience, and increases the accessibility of services, resources and user content areas.
Are website analytics tools in place to collect and aggregate user data in a way that’s really usable?
Is the content compelling, engaging and informative for all levels?
Is there content at all?
Putting any of these strategies into place can seem overwhelming but with expert partners on your side, they can not only be done, but done well and with measurable results and return on investment (ROI).
NGBs are underusing the insights and data generated by analytics tools. This may be down to a lack of knowledge of how to use them effectively, or it’s simply that those tools are not in place at all.
Once systems such as simple but powerful analytics tools are in place and being used to their full potential, we can hand the reins to the individual organisations and clubs for focused and effective self management.
Safeguarding is an essential element for all involved in NGBs.
Having accurate information, clearly signposted and available for athletes, members and parents to find - and for staff members and admin to quickly point to if asked - is a vital first step, however NGBs need to go further here and make it simple to communicate concerns.
93ft and Sport:80 worked alongside USA Archery to create a comprehensive information hub, to answer questions, direct members to further resources and report their concerns.
Governing bodies are faced with the challenge of maximising their reach for minimal cost to ensure membership fees are used effectively.
Funding is available for digital projects, however the prospect of having to demonstrate a tangible ROI can be challenging. This means there needs to be very tight measuring systems in place and rock solid targets of what the projects aim to achieve.
Hiring external expertise like Sport:80 and 93ft to influence decision making and strategy is a solution which makes long term financial sense.
Getting interested individuals through the virtual door is just the first challenge - NGBs then need to turn their attention to keeping them there.
It’s important to realise that members often expect more than just insurance and access to competitions from their memberships. For NGBs to unlock the opportunities for audiences, reach and revenue they need to switch their mindset to value the brand they represent.
Being able to act on impulse - having somewhere to go once a visitor is on the site - is vital. Sites need to be clear and intuitive to use, then keep visitors hooked with a range of content designed to engage the various audiences.
Content is key here. This could be a mix of informative articles aimed at beginners as well as competitors, professionals and elite athletes; how to guides and videos, as well as extending to content over a range of social media platforms to incorporate and attract the Tiktok generation.
Opportunity data is an innovative and effective way of making it easy for people to engage in sport. Badminton England’s Discover Badminton tool makes booking a court “as easy as ordering a pizza” and brings NGBs together with clubs, gyms and leisure centres via the digital sphere to provide an inclusive and accessible service for the public.
NGBs need to put communication at the forefront of their strategy in order for members to feel included. These benefits here go both ways - a sense of ownership and care of their organisation helps strengthen members’ resolve to help their sport succeed, while also allowing them to feel cared for by the NGB.
Sport can evoke a powerful sense of community and belonging - is this being utilised to its fullest extent?
NGBs are also aware of being seen as a guardian and advocate for their sport and this is a responsibility they do not take lightly. It can be seen as risky or irresponsible to strike out and try something new - maybe existing members or stakeholders will be alienated, or perhaps it simply won’t work.
With the help of expert strategic partners, taking these new avenues is not a stab in the dark, but a planned and focused strategy designed to take the organisation, and the sport itself, to a whole new arena, placing it in the spotlight it deserves.
A targeted communications strategy connects the dots to make the sport and its NGB accessible and relevant to all interested parties - a need which is supported by data showing the rich diversity of potential members.
Giving back to the network is vital.
Sharing and celebrating good news stories - when local clubs are doing well or implementing innovative solutions to organisation-wide problems - keeps the network united, engaged and motivated.
The opportunity to be involved in decision making increases the sense of ownership - when members feel their voice is being heard they see the tangible benefits of their involvement.
NGBs which see themselves simply as an organisation are missing valuable opportunities.
Bodies can go further than just being a sport membership service instead positioning themselves as exciting, relevant and attractive brands, but this requires a fresh perspective and a willingness to think commercially, to see themselves -and be seen - as a household brand.
NGBs have huge potential but unless they capitalise on their position, it will be wasted.
Bodies need to ask themselves some hard questions - and take an honest look at the answers.
How noisy is your brand? Are people hearing it across the world, across towns and villages, from grassroots level to the pinnacle of elite athleticism?
How much persuasion, power and reach does your brand have, across all levels of involvement and across demographics?
Is branding instantly recognisable, strong and carefully considered? How does it look on clothing, will young people want to wear it? Does it speak to the diverse range of people involved, or does it represent just a small portion?
In the run up to the Olympics, what campaigns are you running to get people interested, and how are you planning to keep them engaged and participating in the aftermath - especially if restrictions mean in-person or team participation is not immediately available?
Are you investing in a solid content marketing strategy to keep those potential, new and existing members, engaged and motivated?
Are you using email and social media to their full potential to create and nurture relationships and start conversations with followers?
Bodies have access to the elite of their sport - the incredible coaches and athletes whose stories and successes are capable of captivating and inspiring across generations.
If NBGs saw these people as the valuable assets they are, they could unlock the potential from both educational and branding perspectives to increase uptake and create connections between those medal winning stars and the enthralled spectators.
Look to successful sports brands - how their brand culture is communicated? Could this be used in sports bodies to build the brand and following?
When families try archery at Center Parcs, following up to encourage archery lessons is a priority - making the most of every opportunity for engagement is key.
Fresh and innovative ways to generate revenue - from donate buttons to official e-commerce shops - will be a key step towards thriving sports bodies in the future. Whatever avenue the body chooses, it must be exceptionally well designed, with excellent quality and style - just building it isn't enough to make them come!
Once again, a focused strategy is paramount to success.
Forming partnerships, as England Netball and Kitlocker have done, is another potentially lucrative avenue to explore.
An understanding of branding and design is essential to create a coherent brand identity, including brand marks that embrace diversity, are polished and refined, and which embody the professional yet welcoming nature of the sport.
Branding - which has been described as what people say about you when you’re not in the room - can elevate a national governing body from being seen as a “necessary evil”, a route to insurance, access to lessons or the gatekeeper to competing, to an exciting and attractive brand that people actively want to be a part of, wear and shout about.
This requires the kind of strong leadership which inspires trust when taking innovative action.
Deciding to invest - being proactive and long sighted with marketing budgets - means the body’s reach is wider and deeper, resulting in the thriving of the body itself and the benefits of the sport being felt by the most people.
For digital solutions and branding for your sports website, get in touch.
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