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A Legacy That Lasts

Athletes at the London Olympics 2012

Following the publication of Sport England’s annual Active People Survey earlier this week, which brought mixed news on the London 2012 Olympic Legacy, Account Manager Emma Bluck explores what really encourages us to get active.  

The BBC’s show Twenty Twelve made a bit of a joke about the Olympic Organising committee and their commitment to legacy, but really when it all happened weren't we all feeling more than a little inspired to explore our own sporting potential? We here at True North certainly were, with a worrying number of the team planning to add professional sports personality to their CV. “If we started training now, I’m fairly confident we’d make the Rio 2016 Archery team.”

Although recent participation figures published by Sport England showed a peak around the Games (with cycling and athletics seeing continued growth), it now seems like most sports participation figures are dropping. Could this be because of the way the Olympics portrayed sport to us? Anyone who has tried to take those steps towards a more active lifestyle will know that there’s no crowds cheering you on when your legs start to ache, no gold medal after finishing boot camp and no Claire Balding pestering for a post event analysis. In fact it couldn't be further from a “true” representation of what it’s like to be active.

In late 2012 True North were engaged by Sport England to work on a pilot scheme that would promote a more active lifestyle to women in Bury. Inspired by research showing that friendship and camaraderie are often the most successful triggers in getting those who are sport shy moving, we came up with a solution. I Will if You Will is a community-led brand designed to encourage involvement by engaging the support and ownership of women in Bury.

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It took a more direct and personalised approach, putting participation and female to female empowerment at the heart of the idea – I Will if You Will encouraged women who were active to encourage their friends to get started. Women who were inactive to find a friend to get started with. And those who were already on the journey to help build a community that could encourage and support each other – providing the ‘cheering squad and crowd support' along the way. 

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And the results so far are positive. Three years after the brand’s launch, 2,000 more women are now active in Bury proving that this approach works. In April this year, Sport England took the findings from I Will if You Will to inspire the brief for This Girl Can, rolling out a national campaign of female sporting encouragement.

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Although we look back on London 2012 with great fondness and will no doubt be enthralled when our athletes head to Rio, we’ve learnt a huge lesson. Our sporting hero’s are incredible human beings, but it won’t be them who finally get the nation moving. It will be me, you and the women of Bury.

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