Big Hits, new audiences, and a catalyst for change. Our 2023 European Championship campaign.
We’re incredibly proud to have been part of the team that helped make the 2023 Wheelchair Rugby European Championship such a special and unforgettable event. The action-packed event took place over five days at the iconic Principality Stadium, Wales, in May, with live footage broadcast on Channel 4.
Roll on Autumn and news of the European Championship’s success has spread, with the event shortlisted as Best Sports Event of the Year in the Sports Business Awards. This latest celebration comes hot on the heels of a Conker shortlisting for Best Social Purpose Campaign at the 2023 Prolific North Marketing Awards.
“The 2023 European Championship set out to deliver something pretty special for the sport of wheelchair rugby, but more broadly to showcase how events can be a platform to drive positive societal change, ’’ said event director Chris Walker.
He continued: “Delivering the event within the iconic Principality Stadium in Cardiff was intended to be a catalyst for engaging a new audience with the one-of-a-kind sport whilst providing the deserved platform for wheelchair rugby’s existing community of athletes, officials, volunteers and fans.”
Conker’s campaign worked hard to support the goal of reaching beyond existing audiences. The result? Two thirds of the event’s audience was new to the sport. That’s the power of a creative communications campaign to transform perceptions and galvanise change!
Here’s a look at how we helped governing body Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby towards their goal of “the best European Championship ever.”
Setting the stage: Conker’s objectives
From day one, Conker set out to raise the bar for disability sports marketing, with a multichannel campaign bringing this unique sport and one-of-a-kind event to new audiences.
Taking our comms campaign courtside
Prioritising spend, leveraging relationships, thinking creatively about who and how we could amplify the event messaging, and meticulous planning to make the right channel selections were key to maximising this campaign’s budget.
To reach new audiences, we engaged Wales’s rugby-loving audience through promotion via Six Nations, Women’s Six Nations and Autumn Internationals events, as well as local professional and grassroots clubs.
To boost our reach to already ‘warm’ audiences, our “Your Game Is Our Game” campaign was delivered via content packs we sent to rugby clubs to share through their channels, building a connection between wheelchair rugby and traditional rugby.
Audience interest piqued, ‘’Big Hits. Big Stakes’’ was our next campaign to dramatise the excitement of the big crashes wheelchair rugby is loved for amongst fans – whilst pointing to the fact that spots at the Paris Paralympic Games and the European Championship crown were on the line! The campaign worked to educate new audiences, using intense, powerful imagery, video, and creative copy. Online, print and social advertising platforms were selected to deliver best bang for buck.
To generate media interest, we created PR hooks, holding the competition draw at Cardiff Castle and marking the ‘100 days to go’ countdown with a school event to celebrate the 3000th opportunity for people to try wheelchair rugby through the event’s legacy programme. Highlighting athlete stories and the transformation of Principality Stadium created interest from national and local media in the run-up to the event.
The final score
The campaign resulted in over 5,200 spectators attending, 68% of whom had never attended a wheelchair rugby event before: strong proof of engaging people outside the existing audience.
The Times, BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio Wales Carol Vorderman show, BBC News, BBC Sport, BBC Sport Wales, Daily Mail, The Guardian and Wales Online are just some examples of the results we secured with our PR campaign, which reached a colossal audience of 3.15M estimated views.
Over on social, Conker-created Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly known as Twitter) accounts worked to build excitement before and during the tournament:
- Organic content resulted in nearly 1M impressions and 29k engagements.
- Targeted digital advertising campaigns generated 1.9M impressions and 160k engagements.
Our campaign also drove significant interest from those not attending:
- Channel 4 television broadcast saw the final reach a peak of 133k viewers (104k average).
- 42k views of the Channel 4 YouTube live stream.
- Channel 4 feedback revealed favourable viewing figures compared with the last major non-Paralympic parasport event they had broadcast on the network.
But this campaign wasn’t just about the numbers, it was about showing that sport can be a catalyst for changing perceptions of what’s possible. That Paralympic sport isn’t about being inspirational, it just needs the right platform to be enjoyed in the same way as able-bodied sport.
Speaking on Conker’s work throughout the campaign, event director Chris Walker says: “A key element of why Conker delivered such successful outcomes for this unique event was their ability to go above and beyond, continually pushing to elevate the event through engaging internal and external partners to promote the event as one not to be missed.
“It never once felt like an agency approach and the team of Anna, Emily, Natalie, Simon, Dan and the wider Conker team became an integral part of the event delivery team – it was an absolute pleasure to work with them and I can’t thank them enough for all of their hard work and commitment throughout to support this event!”
We’re keeping our fingers crossed we can add to our sports marketing trophy cabinet, having previously achieved gold in the Chartered Institute of Marketing awards and the Prolific North Marketing awards with campaigns for the Netball World Cup in 2019.
The Sports Business Awards will take place Friday, 10th November 2023. Be sure to keep up with us on social for any news!