The second and final session of the Figure Skating Marketing Summit, organised by the Chinese Taipei Skating Union, was a vivid proof of what can be achieved working with digital and cooperative minds to grow the sport and making it more attractive for fans and sponsors alike. Exclusive digital formats, educational content, virtual judging, and an athlete-oriented approach will help engaging with broader audiences.
Elena Iniguez de Heredia was part of the team of ISU certified judges that developed the Virtual Judging Toolkit, “a set of tools for event organisers and National Federations that allows judges to score the athletes performance remotely”. A system that proved to be extremely convenient for Federations like the Spanish Ice Sports.
“During the pandemic, the athletes were able to train but it was difficult to give them opportunities to compete at international level, with all the travel restrictions. So, we decided to select our ice dance couples that will represent Spain in the World Championships to use this remote virtual judging system. One pair was in Montreal, one in Moscow, and we had judges from all over the world” explained Xavier Cherta, Secretary General of the Spanish Federation, to the audience. “With the live cameras the judges were able to score them as in a normal competition, and it proved to be really convenient for all”, he said.
“The virtual Toolkit is free for ISU members and easy to use. It can be used for events but also for judges training, for education purposes, travel costs are reduced, too. Of course, there are things that our team needs to improve, but this cooperative approach is working well, and it will surely be used again in the future” Iniguez de Heredia said. Both panelists see a great development benefit of the virtual judging system and appreciate the ISU leadership making the system accessible to all in its e-learning platform.
The spectators are greatly missed. “Let’s be honest, we can’t replace the energy when we have fans physically in the venue, but meanwhile, this created an appetite for fans that meant more broadcasters were interested in the sport. The events have higher audiences than ever, and if we are able to provide fans with an extensive and comprehensive digital experience, we will be able to grow the sport”, explained Megan McGuire, responsible of winter sports at Infront, one of the biggest commercial rights agencies of the world.”The fans are eager to consume everything. And we at the Olympic Channel are feeding them with as much content as we can: live events, interviews, behind the scenes, long format stories… We have learnt by analysing our audiences. Fans are always keen to know the story of an athlete, how their real life is when they are not competing. Our partners, the broadcasters, show them in competition. We have access to much more, and this is what we can offer. And especially in the lead up to the Olympic Games, we will be producing more content for sports like figure skating” explained Mary Byrne, Chief Editor of the Olympic Channel.
The Channel is constantly working on improving the digital experience for the fans, with the aim set on Beijing 2022. “It will be a fantastic opportunity to showcase the sport, but also to educate the audience explaining the technical aspects of the sport, introduce athletes from new and upcoming national federations… to give everyone more visibility”, she said.
Tiao-Ching Hung, President of the Chinese Taipei Skating Union, said: “it has been a real pleasure to host this Summit and to have such great speakers, that have helped us understand what we can do to promote figure skating in Taiwan.
Over the past two days, we have all listened to international experts sharing their insights and experiences on how we could face challenges and seize new opportunities. By identifying actions, approaches and experiences that will help developing the sport of Figure Skating, we recognize the future of our sport is digital. We need to look at building strong communities and engagement online and organising international events that will take roots locally.
We must commit to the work ahead of us and take actions. This summit is just a beginning that allows us to follow the ISU leadership and helps all stakeholders involved in the business to become stronger in post-Covid-19 recovery”, he said.
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