Experiences in multi-sport events and manifestations in Austria
How to enter into in multi-sport manifestations as a minor sport
Mindset and expectations as organiser of a disc sport program during sport manifestations
Ultimate has been played in Austria since the end of the 70s. From the beginning the very small Austrian disc sport community has tried to increase its public presence, trying to enter in regional or national sport events.
From the end of the 90s to 2010, I was a board member of Austrian Frisbee Sport Federation and responsible for Ultimate and Development. The whole board was made of volunteers, none of us expert in marketing or sport politics. We were just 200 percent passionate and committed to spreading the message of Spirit of the Game and to increase our player base.
In Austria there are 3 associations responsible for Sport-For-All, which gets state fundings, own various sport venues, organise sport-for-all events and supports their members in various ways. My ultimate sport club was member of one of these.
Within our club and the Austrian Federation, we were convinced that a good way to recruit new players and grow as sport was to get as much exposure as possible, so we decided to try to attend in as many multi-sport manifestations as possible.
To tell you the truth, we did not really know what we were talking about and looking back to that time I would do things in a much different way.
First steps using existing contacts and first mistakes
The best way to get started was, of course, to get in touch with the management of the Sport-for-All association my Viennese Ultimate club was a member of.
They had a marketing department, which could support us in the promotion of our sport, with articles in the members newsletter, placement of ultimate events in the association calendar, reduced costs for flyers, best practices how to approach sponsoring, etc. We were also able to participate with a booth and be-active activities at their local sport-for-all events, mainly targeted to school kids in unprivileged city areas.
We did all this, investing time and money, and hoped for the miracle which did not happen.
The point was that we had no strategy at all. We expected to recruit more people, for instance, by placing articles in a newsletter that was probably just received by the boards of other sport associations or going to kids events, when we actually wanted to attract college students. Still, it was good for us to have this experience.
Community of practices
Far more positive, at least from a short-term perspective, was that we have been able to use the infrastructure of the association, where many other not-main-stream sports were training as well. So we got good connections for instance with field hockey, baseball, rugby and American football. These sports were also minor ones, struggling to become better known and to get funding, but were about 10-15 years ahead of ultimate in their development.
The core message they could give us was: get state recognition, get fundings, professionalize your organisation.
Still, all these problems were so far away for us, since we were rather struggling to get players and to be better known.
Show Case Sport in Trendy Sport Events
Still without a real strategy but trying to differentiate our approach, we got the chance to be a demonstration sport at the World Kite and Windsurf Championship close to Vienna. This is a yearly lifestyle trendy sport festival with 100,000 guests over 10 days and we were responsible alongside Football and Lacrosse for the side program. It was really great to work with a professional marketing agency, that provided us all necessary infrastructure, stage-time for interviews and freestyle show acts and of course a lot of people around with a similar mindset and lifestyle as disc sport players.
Reflecting now about the 3-4 years we have been at that festival it was very good to cooperate with other sports like football, skating and lacrosse, which were in a similar situation as ultimate and freestyle. We had the same issues and we could share our experiences. We also continued this partnership in other smaller events.
Working with a professional agency required a level of professionalism and an investment of time that we, as a pure volunteer association, could not keep up for a long time. It was just asking too much from the same few people to sacrifice their time and work very hard for something, where the return of investment was unclear. Indeed from a recruitment perspective, we had no real evidence that all this effort brought us new players, but from a public publicity point of view it was probably much, much better than any other activities we did.
The European Week of Sport
The real break through happened in 2004 when the Austrian Master Beach Ultimate Team won the World Championship. Shortly before this, WFDF became part of the International World Games Association, so we could then present to the Austrian Sport Ministry that Austria were World Champions!
As all gold medal winners, the Austrian Disc Sport Federation got invited to the Austrian Day of Sport (now European Week of Sport), where all Sports recognized by the Sport Ministry have a professional presentation tent, an area for be-active activities and some stage time. The beach ultimate team received a special prize handed over by the Sports Minister. This was a great moment for the process of official recognition of Disc Sports in Austria.
In this events there are more than 200 different sports and many thousands of guests. There is a pagoda beside the other, where every sport tries to sell itself at the best and emerge from the mass. As ultimate, with very limited resources, it was already challenging for us to have enough material as to not to make our tent appear completely empty! This is another of those events were you can do something for your public visibility and you must present yourself in a professional way, in order to be taken seriously, but you shouldn’t expect to get new players out of this.
Networking with politicians and other associations
As a federation it is vital to participate in such multi-sport manifestations at national scale, as well as for local clubs at smaller scale.
During the preparation of the event you get in touch with many agencies and you are officially entered as association in various systems. Additionally, among the thousands of guests at these events, there are not only kids and families, but politicians, journalists and sponsors.
It was at one of these events that we had the first contact with decision makers of Sport Austria, that liked the idea of Spirit of the Game, Gender Equity and Inclusivity, that we were presenting. Also this personal contact helped in getting, after a long process, the official sport recognition.
Now the Austrian Disc Sport Federation get financial fundings from the state, has various employees and can, for instance, run projects in school sport, trainer development and women in sport.
As European Flying Disc Federation we try to get official recognition of Disc Sports within the European Commission and other multi sport associations like EOC, TAFISA, EUSA, ISF. Participation and Networking at Sport Conferences is an investment that should not be underestimated, neither from what it could bring but also for what it requires to attend.
EU Sport Forum 2019 - Mr. Andrea Furlan (EUF President), Mrs. Heidi Pekkola (EUF Gender Equity Chair), Mr. Tibor Navracsics (European Commissioner for Sport) - Photo: European Ultimate Federation (2019)
Releted Best Practices
Showcase your sport as part of local public events or in frequented places
Emphasise and promote what makes your association or your sport special
Attend to associations day of sport or multisport manifestations with be-active offers
Create a partnership with another sports for trainings, coaching development or for common events