World Police and Fire Games
The World Police and Fire Games (WPFG) is a biennial multi-sports tournament or ‘Olympics’ for serving and retired police, fire, prison and border security officers. In 2007, Northern Ireland won an international bid to bring the 2013 Games to the UK for the first time in its 28 year history. Up to June 2013, the PR focus had been on attracting competitors (7,000 from 67 countries signed up) and volunteers or gamesmakers (3,500 selected from a pool of 6,500).
The PR challenge from June until August was to get buy-in from the Northern Ireland public who knew little about the Games.
To create the environment and provide the support mechanisms to enable WPFG Ltd to deliver the friendliest and most successful World Police and Fire Games ever.
- To encourage all sections of the Northern Ireland public to spectate at the Games which historically have attracted very small numbers of spectators in other host cities.
- To achieve comprehensive media coverage thereby creating awareness and interest in the Games.
- To showcase Northern Ireland as able to host major sporting events.
- To position the Games as a world-class festival of sport which will be exciting, fun, family friendly and with free access to all events.
- Secure a key media partnership.
- To utilise stories of athlete’s human endeavour, courage, sporting achievements to give the Games a ‘personality’ and encourage public engagement.
- To exploit the many unique WPFG sports as a point of difference and curiosity.
- Making it easy for the media – setting up press briefings, developing an extensive image bank and providing fact packs on people and sports.
- Using social media to go vertically into the local fan bases of key sports through influencers such as local clubs and associations and to engage parents looking for something to entertain their kids when they were off school for the summer
- Turn the 3,500 games volunteers into social media advocates and ambassadors
- To achieve widespread public interest the Games had to be more than ‘just’ a sports story. The whole spectrum of reporting was targeted from news to business and from lifestyle to tourism.
- Contact was made with hundreds of athletes through Facebook to ask for their stories – their sporting/personal journey to the Games in NI and what they hoped to achieve. From this bank of information we identified many interesting angles to pitch to the media ensuring that every outlet had different feature material.
- We secured the BBC as media partner.
- We invited journalists to ‘have a go’ at the more unusual sports eg. Stairclimb, Ultimate Firefighter, Toughest Competitor Alive, Munster.
- Local services participants and volunteers were profiled (where security allowed) to encourage regional ownership.
- Four weeks out we organised a media briefing providing detailed programme, map of venue locations, highlights, details of the opening ceremony and access arrangements.
- We involved the Minister for Sport wherever possible as her support sent out a positive message that the Games were for everyone.
- Key spokespeople were identified for different aspects of the Games including the Games Patron, Dame Mary Peters.
- With a limited photography budget we planned that over the 10 days of the Games (1st-10th August) that each sport would be photographed at least once. These photos were uploaded onto the photographers website and were available to media f.o.c.
- For the duration of the Games we compiled a daily bulletin comprising the sports taken place, medal tally, ten highlights of the day, whether sporting or personal, a look forward to the next day and a link to the day’s photographs.
- We created WPFG TV for social media and posted a daily round-up on the website each afternoon.
- Blog posts, such as: ‘Free events to entertain the kids’, ‘5 things you need to know about 2013WPFG ice-hockey’, ‘Everything you need to know about spectating at the cycling events’, and ‘Ultimate Firefighter explained’. These were designed to go vertically into key areas such as parents looking for something to take their kids to during the summer when they were off school, passionate ice-hockey fans looking for a fix in the off-season, or women who were interested in very fit firemen!
- We engaged with sports organisations to share information about spectating to their followers/fans and to encourage them to spectate – including the Belfast Giants who had a huge following of ice-hockey fans, NI cycling clubs, NI cricket clubs, Sport NI the umbrella body, and others
- Harnessing the potential of all 3,500 volunteers, including creating a Twibbon for them, an event to encourage and support them to use social media to communicate their involvement in the games, encouraging them to take selfies in their kit when they received it and getting them involved
- A dedicated team of volunteers to provide content from some of the venues, including updates on scores, video content, audio interviews, and blog posts, using the hashtag #WPFGSocialTeam. They were trained and briefed at a special session in advance of the games. Having an able, well-briefed team meant that we caught so many key moments that worked so well on social media – several wedding proposals at events, a fly-past by the Red Arrows, ice-hockey players giving their sticks to kids in the crowd, and much more
- Maximised distribution of messages by sharing all releases with the communication teams of all the emergency services, councils, NI Tourist Board and the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (responsibility for sport).
- Coverage achieved (June – August) ; 1614 print articles and 1548 broadcast minutes.
- Milestone events organised to produce media coverage eg 50 days to go / Opening Ceremony details / new swimming complex opens for Games / Games transport partner unveiled.
- “Get Ready for Eddie” (Games mascot) Roadshow around 10 regional schools ‘buddyied’ up with international teams.
- Regionalised press releases highlighting local council involvement as sporting venue hosts: local people as volunteers; local people as participating athletes or officials; local companies sponsoring the Games.
- Final media briefing (23rd July) hosted by Sports Minister, Lord Mayor, Dame Mary Peters and attended by all NI print and broadcast media.
- Sneak preview media access to Opening Ceremony, venue-build and rehearsals.
- Belfast City Council welcomed the Games by lighting up City Hall as a flashing fire engine.
- Sourced different athletes from different countries every day during Games to populate broadcast bulletins and magazine shows.
- Facilitated media access to sports not open to the public – SWAT and shooting.
- Liaison with on-site volunteers at 42 sporting venues and monitor twitter to access human interest stories eg 4 marriage proposals, Australian Games veteran celebrates 80th birthday in javelin event.
- The Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast showed his support by running as an honorary competitor in the 10k event.
- Ten daily bulletins compiled and distributed to media – from Super Saturday to Finals Friday.
- During the Games, the official 2013 WPFG Facebook page had a weekly reach of more than 2million individuals and had 70,000 individuals talking about it weekly
- There were over 100,000 views of the videos we produced to support the Games
- There were over 700,000 views of the photos we uploaded to Facebook during the games
- There were more than 50,000 views of the blog posts between July 1 and August 10
- Blog content was also used by key organisations such as the Belfast Giants ice-hockey team, Sport NI, local councils, the NI Tourist Board, parenting blogs, visitor information blogs, newspapers, ‘what’s on’ blogs
- Influencers that we engaged who then tweeted about the Games included the BBC’s Clare Balding, the BBC’s Olympic Correspondent, Premiership and international football Chris Brunt, The Belfast Giants professional ice-hockey team, Ulster Rugby, Ulster Rugby star Stephen Ferris, Northern Ireland celebrities with large followings like David Meade and Eamonn Holmes, sports organisations around the world
- Politicians from right across Northern Ireland’s political divide shared our social media content and posted/tweeted in a positive way about the games
- The NI public fully embraced the Games – examples of spectator numbers include 50,000 at ice hockey; 10,000 at athletics; 13,850 watched cricket and football; 4,000 attended Ultimate Fire Fighter and the Ulster Hall was at capacity for 4 consecutive nights of boxing.
- All 3,500 tickets available to the public for the Opening Ceremony were snapped up.
- After four athlete marriage proposals the Games became known as the ‘Love Games’.
- In a post event survey 98% of NI residents said the event made them feel more proud of their country.
- A competitor tweeted:- “Northern Ireland you did yourself proud ... I was participating from Canada and must say the whole of Belfast City was behind the Games from shore to shore.
- Very positive media headlines eg – “Police and Fire Games A Breath of Fresh Air”; “Ten days of ‘love games’ in Northern Ireland”; “Business Are Winners Too”; “Belfast Strikes Gold”; “Emotional Closing Ceremony For ‘Best-Ever’ World Games”.
- WPFG Federation President, Mike Graham, who has been involved in the Games since 1985, said at the Closing Ceremony that – “The 2013 World Police and Fire Games have been the friendliest and best Games ever.”
- The European Tug of War Championships are to be held in Belfast in 2015 as a direct result of the Games.
The success of the Games also contributed to Belfast host