Thursday, 27 November 2008

squashblog poll: a little bit of everything?

Squashblog poll resultsA poll that has been on squashblog since the end of the Beijing Olympics asked readers to identify the one key factor in getting squash into the Olympics.

The results were mixed - an indication in itself that there is still lots of work to do before the IOC vote in Copenhagen a year from now ...

The recent presentation in Lausanne concentrated on emphasising the sport's best virtues, suggesting an admirable lack of cynicism in the voting process.

It appears that the WSF have therefore taken the more conservative route that I suggested after the resignation of Christian Leighton in August, and voters in my little poll seem to agree that this is more important than making a big impression on the cocktail party circuit.

But is this enough, especially in comparison to the efforts of squash's rivals in the Olympic vote?

'Improved marketing of the game' also garnered almost a quarter of the vote in the poll. When compared to the huge budgets of rivals such as rugby sevens and golf, squash can clearly only do so much.

So when it was time for squash to present itself to the IOC in Lausanne, I was interested to see how things had moved on from the previous - unsuccessful - vote, when squash missed out on being included for London 2012.

Effective sports marketing in today's world is inextricably linked with the media. During that presentation a rather amateur-looking PowerPoint presentation was accompanied by a short film that appeared to have been made in the 1970s (this can be seen left).

The pitch simply came across as far too amateur in approach, and hugely out of touch with modern techniques of marketing and media presentation. I remember reading similar criticism on a leading squash message board (which mysteriously was removed soon after). I doubt whether this was the main factor why squash did not make it into 2012, but the efforts were clearly to be marked "could do better".

So I awaited the Lausanne pitch with interest, to see what progress had been made.

Speeches were again accompanied by simple PowerPoint presentation designed to impress IOC delegates (this can be viewed here). I am sorry to say that this does not suggest that the intervening years since the last vote have been spent learning from the way that others sports sell themselves as exciting and dynamic pursuits.

The words are admirable and present a persuasive argument. But communication is also about presentation. Is this the work of a professional organisation? How is this slideshow different from the one that was produced during the last vote?

The Lausanne presentation was also meant to feature a very hastily-commissioned 'high-level DVD' (this had not even been commissioned at the beginning of September, as discovered and reported by Squash 360) that would showcase squash at its best. This was apparently show at the WSF AGM in Manchester during the World Open, and I have yet to hear whether this DVD was used in the Lausanne pitch (I have made an enquiry to the WSF but have received no reply - updates here when I receive them).

An 'Olympic pledge' poster and a few PowerPoint slides are therefore all the props to show since the vote for 2012 inclusion. Those who ticked the 'marketing' box in my poll look like they might have a point.

A look back at my articles on Olympic inclusion show that it is almost exactly a year since Amr Shabana complained in the Gulf Times about the lack of effort that was being made on the players' behalf in trying to get squash into the Olympic Games. In mitigation, it would be unfair to demand that squash can compete with the marketing juggernauts that the likes of golf and rugby (see bottom of page) can fund. There simply is not the money in the game.

But with years to prepare for the vote, can we really say that the world's best player - on the evidence presented here - has been answered with the level of effort that befits his talent and own dedication to the sport?

On a wider, political level, what efforts have been made by the other squash governing bodies to hold those organising the Olympic bid to account?

There are 11 months left to make amends.


More on the Olympic vote

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