England Hockey begin sport positioning project

Alex Danson, Lily Owsley, Mark Gleghorne and Maddie Hinch

England Hockey are undertaking an exciting project to best position the sport of hockey and continue the growth of the game in this country at all levels.

With historic gold medal success for Great Britain’s women in 2016, sell-out crowds on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, participation rising hugely and the upcoming Women’s World Cup in London in 2018, hockey’s current position is unparalleled.

In order to maximise those opportunities and sustain the game’s growth, England Hockey have partnered with brand specialists Heavenly, who have an exceptional portfolio across both sport and the consumer sectors. In addition, research specialists Nielsen Sports will bring their global acumen to ensure the best possible insight into the game and its position in the sporting landscape.

England Hockey Communications Manager Craig Mortimer-Zhika said, “We are delighted to partner with both Heavenly & Nielsen and it is clear the level of expertise they will offer us. The sport is in a fantastic place, and this project has two strands: to maintain the huge growth in participation and to help increase the exceptional interest in both our events and our athletes.”

David Wood, Chief Executive of Heavenly Group, commented, “When we discovered that the Heavenly team working on the pitch had each once upon a time played hockey and loved it, there was little choice but to put our heart and soul into the project. With the game growing year on year, and following the stunning success of the Great Britain women's team at the Rio Olympics, the time for a quantum leap in the hockey game is clearly now. We are delighted to be adding England Hockey to a Heavenly trophy cabinet already honoured by RFU, LTA, ECB and Fulham Football Club.”

Jon Stainer, Managing Director of Nielsen Sports UK&I, added, "England Hockey is primed for growth following unprecedented recent success and phenomenal interest in the sport. We are looking forward to helping drive the next phase of growth through a  programme of thorough research and insight".

Where the sport is now:
On the back of the women’s team’s gold medal in Rio, we are moving closer to A Nation Where Hockey Matters. The sport is growing in clubs, particularly in middle class areas for boys and – more strongly – for girls.  However we recognise we are not always in the national consciousness. Interest comes alive around the Olympics every four years, while negative perceptions of the sport have been developed historically through the experience of hockey at school or watching hockey poorly broadcast.  We already have strong, keen, proud advocates within the sport who help break down those perceptions, but now we need to amplify the sport’s strengths.

Where we want the sport to be:
We must correctly position the sport in front of our key audiences; making hockey as attractive, engaging and accessible as possible.  This is happening through the increasingly positive coverage of hockey, not least during London 2012, but the gold medal has opened up more people’s minds to the possibility of hockey, and its position as a genuine option for people’s time and money, as a follower, supporter or player.  Rio has opened up a chink of light, allowing us to delve deeper into insight, deliver deeper engagement and drive acquisitions as people follow, play or watch our sport.

A research-led, insight-driven creative brand strategy and campaign will support our work to create A Nation Where Hockey Matters across both participation and engagement with the sport.

A significant part of the work will be in researching the existing hockey family, and regular updates will be posted across England Hockey’s website, social media and LinkedIn.