Thursday, January 28, 2010

Using the Paralympics to publicise the sport

Team GB third Aileen Neilson gave an extended interview to Paul Thomson of the East Kilbride News. She talks about her life before her disability, how she came into wheelchair curling, how she has prepared for Vancouver and her hopes for success.

Scots curlers, who make up the Great Britain team, are generously financed by the government and appear to see publicity as part of their responsibility to the sport. I have recently linked to articles mentioning every member of their team.

Team USA also feature regularly in the press and media, as the USA curling authorities understand that the national team is their best advertisement for increasing participation. Again I have linked to articles on all the team.

Canada has instituted a pre-Paralympics media protocol explicitly discouraging informal press (including me) contact with team members, and insisting that all requests for interviews be cleared with a "media liason officer." Standard procedure. apparently, but just one reason why you'll find so little information about the team on this blog, or read mainstream media stories covering anything other than Jim Armstrong's phoenix-like rise from the ashes of a ruined able-bodied curling career.

Team Canada, also funded by public money, should be doing everything in their power to court publicity, realising that often means not only going out of their way to contact media with stories, but supplying journalists, notoriously lazy, with material.

Instead they issue no press releases, or invitations to watch the team prepare.  They don't train in different locales while inviting local curlers to interact with the team, which would attract local TV.

You can call it necessary focus, and claim that gold in Vancouver wipes away all objections, but making a two year campaign solely about winning a gold medal puts everything in just one basket, and we can only hope it's a sturdy one.

To be successful a sport has to make its audience care about the participants. If all Canadians are asked to care about is a gold medal, then it's a disaster getting anything less. But more, once the competition is over, people will stop caring, and that's no way to nuture a sport and provide for the future.

13 comments:

Bruce Cameron said...

Well said Eric....when u compare Team Canada exposure to GB and USA...it is pitiful....I suppose a wheelchair curler giving an interview to a local TV outlet sitting in a studio chair is better that nothing but how much is questionable. Keep up the good work......

Eric Eales said...

Jim Armstrong would like it to be known that he has always cooperated with me as far as requests for information is concerned. He has, and i am grateful for his support and friendship.

I would also say that Team Canada have accommodated my requests for information.

Lack of personal cooperation was not however the point I was trying to make in the post. My blog collates public information and the range of content is an indication of attitudes to the press and other media in general, not to me specifically.

When I have sought out information, either for my own interest or in response to inquiries to the blog, I have generally been able to get it. But then I care enough to seek it out.

Most media outlets don't have the audience, the time, the resources or the interest to cover a sport with so few participants. If you want their attention, you have to go get it.

I think it is straightforward to see who considers that worthwhile and valuable, and who does not.

Anonymous said...

Eric and Bruce:

You seem to forget that "pre-Armstrong", we had virtually NO media interest outside of this website.

Now, like him or not, we have a guy that generates media interest. Is it only about Jim? Heavens no, and no one knows that better than Armstrong himself. But he cannot refuse interviews if it doesn't serve the interest of simply promoting wheelchair curling.

He is the first to make the transition from able-bodied to wheelchair curling, and with his previous success, and his present success in WC curling, he has a media interest.

Exposure of our sport, even if it simply is through Jim is way better than the days before Jim.

Simply google wheelchair curling, and count the articles in the mainstream news before and after Jim's appearance on our screen.

He has single-handedly improved the image of wheelchair curling, and rather than being critical, Bruce, we should be embracing him.

Anonymous said...

No doubt Jim is our "poster boy". Fortunately he is well spoken, and a good interview. Kudo's, not criticism is in order.

Anonymous said...

Toronto Sun mentions how the Olympic curlers are being kept away from the media http://fwd4.me/Dqj

Anonymous said...

I understand Team Canada (wheelchair edition) and Jim Armstrong have their own media attache.

I think they should be allowed some time to focus, and have interviews set up on appropriate time frames.

Anonymous said...

I concur.

None of our Team, other than Jim, to my knowledge, have had much to do with media requests.

I am sure it can be very tiring and time consuming, so let it be on an appropriate schedule.

Anonymous said...

Eric;

You seem to have no problem with access.....do you go through this media liason person?

Bruce Cameron said...

For the "Annie Mousie" who said Jim is the first person to transition from able bodied curling to wheelchair curling is dead wrong. In our club alone we have five wheelchair curlers who curled able body before being in a chair. Their able bodied experience ranges from many, many years to a couple of years of once a week curling. One happens to have been on the original 2002 Team Canada. Also if u had bothered to read the Team Canada profiles u wud know that Bruno had 20 years of previous able bodied curling. Please do not make statements that are inaccurate.

Anonymous said...

My sincere apologies, Bruce....

What I meant was the first curler from the Hall of Fame to transition, or perhaps the first curler with Canadian championship experience, or perhaps the first curler that can be identified in the media......

Bruce Cameron said...

"Annie Mousie"....you are improving....two out of three ain't bad......

Eric Eales said...

I don't think it has been suggested that Team Canada players or officials should be inconvenienced or distracted in inappropriate ways, or on anything but their own schedule.

Here's a link to an article on the GB Women's Team who are looking not only to win medals, but to capitalize, for the benefit of the sport, on the attention the Olympics brings.

http://fwd4.me/E98

"Yes, of course we are aware that a huge part of this is selling our sport," said GB skip Eve Muirhead.

GB's wheelchair team are part of a similar process.

Anonymous said...

Another great piece in Zoomer Magazine. Once again, it is focused on Jim, which may not work for some of you