In a season which was devoid of championships due to the pandemic, the question of how to maintain an engaging and relevant social media presence was suddenly thrust upon all media and communications specialists in the sporting world when Europe was plunged into lockdown in mid-March.
As a follow-up to the 2020 e-Convention earlier this month, a digital media and storytelling workshop was held virtually on Monday (26) which featured strategic insights from the perspective of European Athletics, a high performing athlete as well as a Member Federation marketing and communications specialist.
The seminar included an engaging and in-depth presentation from 2017 European indoor high jump champion Airine Palsyte from Lithuania about ‘being present’ on social media. As well as being a world class high jumper, Palsyte is also a graduate in marketing and communications.
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Palsyte is one of the most recognisable faces in Lithuanian sport and she was one of the first athletes in her country to utilise and embrace social media. She was also one of the most active athletes on social media during the initial weeks of lockdown.
Palsyte shared her story of traveling from her training camp in Antalya to Lithuania during lockdown and then having to spend two weeks in quarantine on arrival. Rather than disconnecting with social media in this time of no purposeful training and competition, Palsyte shared regular updates on how she was spending her time in lockdown to stay connected with her fans while also finding innovative ways to give value and exposure to her sponsors.
Palsyte gave the example of working with one of her sponsors who delivered one of their latest products to her home via drone. This received a lot of positive attention and publicity on social media as well as making sure all social distancing regulations were fully adhered to.
As well as the commercial opportunities, Palsyte talked on how social media offers athletes the chance to motivate young and aspiring athletes and how their platform gives athletes a voice to speak out on causes which are important to them. One of her main conclusions was the importance of being a credible and an authentic presence. “Be personal. Share your joys and your sorrows,” she said.
The workshop also included a presentation from Nazareno Orlandi from the Italian Athletics Federation on their hugely successful #AtleticaViva (Athletics Alive) project which was the brainchild of the federation’s technical director Antonio La Torre.
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One of the most active and energetic federations on social media during lockdown, the project began in early April and ran for over two months across all social media and digital platforms. The project incorporated 60 webinars and more than 120 tutorials from training tutorials to keep-fit workshops as well as interviews with legends of Italian athletes such as Sara Simeoni, Fiona May and Stefano Baldini.
Not only did this help to keep athletics very much alive in the spotlight during the initial weeks of lockdown, Orlandi also notes one of the goals was to harness a sense of togetherness and a feeling of belonging in the Italian athletics community. This was certainly achieved with more than 7500 people attending the webinars which were held on Zoom.
Orlandi also reported the project helped to grow their followers on their social media accounts as well as generating widespread media attention in the Italian press. Their activities received in-depth coverage in renowned Italian sporting publications La Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport.