The presser on Thursday, May 5 was the chance for Seb Coe, President of the IAAF to shine. With the assistance of Christian Taylor, Femi Ogunode, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Dafne Schippers, Seb Coe got his message out.
You ask, well, what was the message?
Seb Coe, some have said, the is the perfect bridge between the old school of the sport and the new school. For the past seven months, however, almost 210 days, Seb Coe has been involved in the fight of his life. It has only been in the last month that the IAAF has been able to control the narrative. Without that control, anyone in media will tell you, the cause or story is lost.
Seb Coe made it clear in the presser today that he can dodge land mines like the very best. He did not touch the Qatar wanting an Olympic Games question. He did not dodge my questions, on sports as entertainment, and what was learnt from Portland.
Here are my few and unfocused observations on what needs to be done, in four short, lessons:
1. Seb Coe needs to try something. Try anything.
With all of the rotting flesh from the Diack affairs (Lamine and Pappa), Seb Coe has had to dig out of his predecessors stench. He has the support of all the players in the sport, and now, he must do something with it. Try a new competitive concept. Find a new and unusual sponsor. Approach drug testing and doping from a different way. But find an idea, and build on it. Whether it succeeds or not, he is doing something. Coe has been defending himself and the sport for so long, he may have forgot that he is here to change the paradym.
2. Give all non partner media access, for free, to a highilghts reel.
Set up a media site so that each week, about 20-30 minutes of highights from various meetings all season can be used, in 1 -2 minute highlights, on whatever media the organization wants. Get track and field out there. A second and larger offering could be made where the media group barters for ad space so that the IAAF sponsors can be seen far and wide. Right now, outside of the meets, IAAF sponsors get very little visibility. Dentsu and IMG both understand that the more eyeballs, the better the chances of snagging a new sponsor.
3. Support the media that gets your stories out.
The media in our sport is dying. Runners World closed Running Times, Marathon Guide also closed. In my own group, Running Network, we have seen a huge drop off in advertising, as we move to social and digital media. Print is still around, but here is how media kills its own. There are stories everyday on how no one is reading print, but they are. For the IAAF to build the sport, it needs to be smart enough to support video, social, digital media and yes, around major events, print. Otherwise, the IAAF will open its eyes one day and there will be no media to serve the sport. Media helped build a community that thrives on our sport.
4. Promote the events you keep on the schedule.
There are too many championships, too many events and it is not good for the athletes, the sport and the fans. Cut events that are promoted, and promote the ones you have better. No matter where I go in the world, the one thing I see, EVERYWHERE, well, except Monaco, is that the large track events are not promoted. Putting up some signs on the streets is not promoting. Social media buildup, interviews on radio, TV, newspapers, sports sites, and advertising on those mediums are key.
Watch how NASCAR gets a couple of pages in national and regional newspapers around their races? They buy advertising in said media and do their thing. Spend some money. In my mind, road races and most track meets want stuff for free. Put yourself in a website or magazine focused on running’s shoes. Without advertising, they do not survive.
Find the currency of the local media and use it. The IAAF is as smart if not smarter than other federations and organizations. Use those skills to get our sport’s stories out there.