How an old-school communications campaign aimed to inspire a new class of sport stars

A communications campaign to get couch potatoes to take up sport saw ITV stop broadcasting for the first time in three decades. But will it work?

For the first time in more than 30 years ITV stopped broadcasting – in a bid to get people off their sofas and into sport.

Instead of the usual TV programmes, viewers were met with the message ‘We’ve gone running – why don’t you join us?’ across every one of its seven channels between 9.30am-10.30am on Saturday, August 27.

The ITV blackout celebrated Team GB’s Olympics success in Rio and coincided with the nation’s biggest sports day.

A series of sporting events around the country were held to let people try new sports for free. They included activities at the Coronation Street and Emmerdale sets as well as the Glasgow National Hockey Centre.

The move was organised with the National Lottery as part of the I Am Team GB campaign.

A statement from I Am Team GB described the day as: “A homecoming for our lottery-funded Olympic athletes when they return from Rio, inspiring everyone, no matter what their level of fitness, to come together with Olympic heroes and famous faces from ITV in the biggest ever UK-wide sports day.”

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An 80s turn off

In an era where technology and entertainment is at the tip of a finger – it’s a novel idea. Unless you remember the days of this girl and her puppet, you probably can’t remember the last time the TV switched itself off. And that’s why we really like this campaign.

You can’t fail to be impressed with our Olympic success, both in London and in Rio. And in between that, events such as 2014’s Tour de France brought the world’s best cyclists to the doorsteps of Yorkshire.

It’s been a fantastic few years of sport for Great Britain – but has it really inspired a new generation of sportsmen and women? Only time will tell.

But for now, initiatives like the ITV Blackout will continue to encourage us to at least try to get into sport. And despite 60,000 couch potatoes tuning into the blank screen (at least the message got across), organisers say the event was a huge success with more than 100,000 people taking part in sporting activities on the day.

If you are looking for a clever campaign idea, talk to our outdoor and leisure experts.

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