SUNBIZ

ANALYSIS: Taking a Risk to Reduce a Risk

There is an amazing piece of marketing that has taken place in Fiji over the last 12 months that you may have missed. You may not have considered it as
09 Jun 2018 10:00
ANALYSIS: Taking a Risk to Reduce a Risk
The Fiji Schools Swimming Championships has been held for many years now, always about the same time of the year and always in Suva

There is an amazing piece of marketing that has taken place in Fiji over the last 12 months that you may have missed. You may not have considered it as a marketing campaign, but if you accept the definition of market­ing as “an activity that is designed to alter the way a target group thinks and acts”, then the National Schools Swimming Champion­ships that was held in Suva last Friday and Saturda.

It was televised nationally (and in­deed was streamed internationally) certainly qualifies.

How does it qualify?

The Fiji Schools Swimming Cham­pionships has been held for many years now, always about the same time of the year and always in Suva.

It always had basically the same Schools attending and the same schools usually featured on the winner’s podium.

Competitive swimming was, in the wider community in Fiji, regarded as an elitist sport only involving a handful of the upper crust schools and not a very exciting thing to watch if you didn’t have your child involved.

Competitive swimming also has a number of drawbacks for parents. It is very time consuming because the swimmers train all year round, there is no season and off season, and parents are usually roped into getting the young swimmers to and from the pool.

To make matters worse, there is a lot of early morning training, and about once a month there’s a com­petition in either Suva or Nadi, but not both, so there is a constant de­mand to travel if the child wants to be fully involved.

It is also a pretty expensive sport. There’s a fee for club membership (coaching usually included) and a fee for using the pool, a member­ship of Fiji Swimming each year and then the cost of swimming gear such as goggles, caps and togs.

For the serious club swimmer a pair of skins (the tight fitting rac­ing suit) can cost upward of three hundred dollars.

So is there an upside?

Yes, there is. Swimmers usually build very strong and supportive bonds with their peers that help kids through rough times and pro­vide a way to spend a lot of energy constructively.

Swim training is tough and teach­es self discipline and concentration and also builds strong, healthy and, in most cases, attractive bodies.

The fitness earned from swim­ming is usually a very long term one. Kids love being in the water and they have a lot of fun with each other.

For many children the upside far outweighs the downside and swim­ming is a long term passion. It is one of the few sports where age is not an issue.

Older swimmers do slow down, but their enjoyment of the sport does not.

One of the issues in Fiji is the lack of swimming pools for training but the government has recognised this and there are new pools appearing starting to appear now.

But a swimmer can also train quite effectively in any body of wa­ter, a river, dam or the sea and many do so now.

So what’s so interesting in a marketing sense about the School Championships?

It’s simple. One action took a very old product and created a huge lift in interest for the Competition and the sport, even from people who do not have children swimming.

The focus for change was that Fiji TV took the very bold step of turn­ing the Championships into two days of live coverage, starting in 2017.

Swimming makes very good tel­evision.

The contestants are close up and the cameras can catch every mo­ment of drama, the effort of each contestant, the sadness of mis­takes, the joy of competing and the relationships of the participants. The competition is generally close and the finishes exciting and there is an underlying drama of school against school trying to win more medals than everyone else.

The television coverage has taken the elitist positioning and turned it right around with this year some small rural schools doing well.

The interest in swimming in schools has shown an incredible increase in the numbers of schools in Fiji who have introduced swim­ming classes or are considering do­ing so in the near future.

Many say that they will not go to competitions as a school but see swimming as a good sport and will have inter-house competitions.

They see the personal safety ben­efits of learning to swim, particu­larly given the death rate of young drowning in Fiji, particularly in non-urban areas.

There is some evidence that the televised competition has made parents more aware of the value of swimming as a sport and easier for schools to introduce it at the prima­ry school level.

Parents of competing swimmers were surprised at how many phone calls they received from people say­ing they had seen the children on TV. Some schools travelled long dis­tances to attend the Championships this year and did a lot of fund rais­ing so they could camp in Suva.

The completion was extremely well run with no really visible glitches, the camera work and edit­ing on the coverage was good, the commentators knowledgeable and the stands were packed by people enjoying the whole atmosphere. Fiji TV will certainly have the cov­erage next year, given the amount of interest there was in the telecast and will have no trouble making it financially viable since it provides a very targeted coverage for adver­tisers.

The televising of the Champion­ships is a very clever marketing ex­ercise taking what was considered a low interest sport, supporting it on air and creating a platform that did not previously exist for advertisers to reach an attractive audience.

Interesting side effects

The side effects are interesting.

In taking awareness of swimming to very high levels it has made it easier for schools to introduce swimming classes and probably save young lives, it has created an­other sporting event the level of the Coke games and it has done a lot to promote a very healthy past time to a great many kids.

It will also probably help Fiji raise the bar in the international arena by exposing a lot of new talent.

The numbers are interesting.

In the first televised Games last year 40 schools participated and in this year’s competition there were 52 schools.

The number of kids competing grew from 657 in 2017 to over 850 this year and the new schools who entered this year vow to come back bigger and more competitive next year. That alone shows the market­ing success of the concept.

But even if the new awareness of swimming and the classes that it created save just a single young life from drowning the decision by Fiji TV to take a risk is vindicated..

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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