The Commonwealth Games gives us all something to cheer about

By Mick Mahoney, campaignlive.co.uk, Wednesday, 16 July 2014 08:00AM

Put aside your cynicism and shake off that sports fatigue, "the Friendly Games" maybe aren't so friendly after all.

Commonwealth Games: this highlight of the sporting calendar begins on 23 July

Commonwealth Games: this highlight of the sporting calendar begins on 23 July

The Commonwealth Games tends to be the bridesmaid of world sports. While distinctly higher profile sporting events, such as the Olympics and the World Cup, have the world stage as a given, the Commonwealth Games has to work extra hard to attract the public gaze.

Some efforts to court attention in the run-up to the event have gone better than others. The decision by Games chiefs to demolish five Glasgow city tower blocks during the opening ceremony and their subsequent forced U-turn when the plans were met with public outrage didn’t do much to inspire.

Viewers will now have to make do with Rod Stewart and Susan Boyle instead (singing, not getting blown up).

Opening ceremony troubles side, what the Games will battle most with is the impact of sports fatigue following a summer of football and tennis. Having a reputation for being "The Friendly Games" does not help matters either. People understandably view "friendly" sporting events as lacking in rivalry, passion and drama – the things that make you want to watch sports in the first place.

With the Olympics, the challenge for the BBC wasn’t getting people excited about it, but making everyone to feel part of it, even those who didn’t have tickets. This inspired our line, "Everyone’s invited". The task for the Commonwealth Games however, was to change perceptions and drive audiences in a way that that BBC didn’t have to in 2012.

So, for the BBC’s coverage of the Commonwealth Games this year, we subverted the notion of ‘"The Friendly Games" by renaming it "The ‘not so’ Friendly Games" and drawing people into the rivalries, stories and personalities of its participants.

To engage a younger audience, something the Commonwealth Games struggles with, we made the event the first major sporting contest to target new fans through the social media feeds of the athletes. 

Inspired by one of the most entertaining aspects of prize fighting - boxers’ ‘call outs’ to provoke their opponents ahead of a fight – we wrote and filmed over 25 call outs from athletes from all over the Commonwealth in the midst of their training, challenging their rivals to a showdown in Glasgow.  

The films include the world’s number-one squash player Malaysia’s Nicol David showing off how she trains in the dark, Scottish swimmer Michael Jamieson telling rivals to get used to his rear view and Turks & Caicos 200m runner Delano Williams defiantly telling his opponents: "2014 is my year".

These social call outs formed the basis of our campaign and were used to create our TV trailers – entirely upturning the trend for social campaigns to simply be a by-product of broadcast.

We’ll see how the drama unfolds as the 20th Commonwealth Games kicks off in Glasgow on 23 July

We may have already had a packed summer of sport, but with England’s pitiful display at the World Cup, Andy Murray’s shock exit from Wimbledon and our Olympics triumph now a distant memory, it’s high time the home nations had something to cheer about.

Mick Mahoney is the executive creative director of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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