Master student M.I. Bulygina1
1Ural Federal University, Yekaterinburg
Keywords: international competitive event, socio-cultural heritage of international competitive events, PR-management of competitive events, socio-cultural landscape, sport event marketing.
Background. A top-ranking sport event hosting project should give a chance to promote brand image of the host city and region by taking full advantage of the socio-cultural heritage left behind by the sport event. Success of such a branding campaign heavily depends on how active and professional the project media promotion and RP management activity is. It is via the prudential management of the event heritage by the relevant PR toolkit, with contribution of the social media and resource mobilizing efforts, that the host city and region may develop their tourist attractions and sport services.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia in its rank of the major international sport tournament left behind in the host cities its socio-cultural heritage which should be effectively employed to advance a variety of the regional and municipal development projects in the economic, infrastructural, social, environmental and communicational domains. The municipal (Yekaterinburg) and Ural regional image and resource has been largely empowered by the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia and shall be further employed to promote Yekaterinburg as the potentially leading tourist center.
Objective of the study was to analyze the practical experience of the PR management project to promote Yekaterinburg city as a tourist attraction center based on the heritage left behind by the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.
Results and discussion. The Yekaterinburg positioning and promotion concept was geared to increase the global awareness of the tourist and cultural attractions of the city, with the social networking component of the campaign following the World Cup expected to facilitate the inflow of tourists, popularity of the city and advance its positive image.
The core idea of the project was to establish an informational, socializing and entertainment resource for the target groups of the sport event in the social media to effectively increase awareness of the potential visitors to Yekaterinburg and local population, during or in connection with the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, of the socio-cultural life and attractions of the city and its services to the football spectators. The project was designed to include the following stages.
Analytical stage of the project included a situation analysis of the event viewed as the key driver and basis of the project concept. The situation analysis found the positive (growing popularity of football in Yekaterinburg; inflow of investments; high interest of business communities and politicians to the event; and its contribution to the socio-cultural heritage of the city) and negative (relatively low support of the teams hosted by the city during the 2018 FIFA World Cup; low support of the event from the Yekaterinburg communities due to the huge local investments that, as many argued, could better be used for the other local needs) aspects of the 2018 FIFA World Cup event in Yekaterinburg.
SWOT-analysis showed that the 2018 FIFA World Cup offers great opportunities due to its global scale and high popularity of football in the Sverdlovsk Oblast. It was assumed that the top-ranking event would leave behind a rich socio-cultural heritage that may, if prudently mobilized and employed, boost the public interest in sports on the whole and children’s sports in particular, with some sport facilities of the World Cup readily usable for the children sport school trainings. The World Cup was planned to give a boost to the local tourist sector and hotel business, with due consideration for the potential risks including, for instance, the risk of the outflow of the potential spectators to the other host cities. Partially the problem was solved by the public awareness campaign in the social media and special information service to the target groups including the football supporters and potential visitors to Yekaterinburg.
Target groups analysis showed that the socially active people and football supporters of 12-plus years of age interested in sports on the whole and football in particular are dominant among the visitors to the cultural and entertainment centers and social network users. The analysis showed the target group being dominated by the 17 to 50 years old activists of both sexes geographically located in the Sverdlovsk Oblast and nearby regions and Yekaterinburg city; followed by foreign residents from the nations competing in the event and interested in football, adventures, new impressions and social networking.
For the purposes of the project and based on the target group analysis and social networking process requirements, the project developers decided to establish a branding platform composed mostly of the following social media resources: VKontakte, Instagram and Facebook networks, with the leading role played by the VKontakte social network due to the highest share of the target groups on this resource. Instagram was chosen for uploads of the special visual contents; and Facebook was intended for communication with the foreign supporters and their timely information in English.
At the planning stage of the project, the team worked out a content plan to specify what contents and when should be uploaded to every social network. In case of VKontakte network, for example, with its versatile toolkit for uploads of pictures and video-/ audio-contents, the content plan included the following elements:
- Entertainment with quotations of the sport celebrities, topical photo galleries, football/ sport documentaries/ movies etc.;
- News dominated by the football event-related news, information about the host city and available services etc.; interviews with the leaders of the football communities; progress reports of the host municipality on the preparations for the event; schedules of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and Confederations Cup;
- Public awareness section, with information about the ambassadors to the 2018 FIFA World Cup from Yekaterinburg; #GuideEkb [#Yekaterinburg travel guide] with introduction of the tourist attractions of the host city; map of the cultural and entertainment centers/ sites, including locations of bars, restaurants, cinema centers etc.; monthly schedule of the entertainment events in the city etc.
In case of Instagram network, with its excellent photo- and video-material sharing services, the content plan was designed to include the following elements:
- Entertainments, including photo galleries of the 2018 FIFA World Cup events and local football history; quotations of the football celebrities, analysts and leaders of the local football communities; local attractions with photos and descriptions; stories featuring the city attractions, with travel guides; panoramic views of Yekaterinburg and nearby areas;
- Public awareness section, with information about the ambassadors to the 2018 FIFA World Cup from Yekaterinburg; news with videos etc.;
- Information including schedules of the cultural events and entertainments; topical articles with videos etc.
Every photo was uploaded with explanations, with a special attention given to hashtags indicative of the topic and the general idea of the account. The content promotion in the target groups was also supported by geotags linked to the types of content. The photo galleries were updated 2-3 times per day during the event.
Facebook, the leading foreign network dominated by 26-46 year old people, was used as the last key element of the branding platform. In contrast to the VKontakte content, the Facebook contents were managed with the understanding that the local communities are mostly grouped together by their special interests, while the event promotion page formally represented the brand name. The content plan for Facebook included the following elements:
- Entertainments, with the topical photos and video materials;
- Public awareness section, with information about the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Yekaterinburg; schedules of the cultural events in the city; and reports of the city preparations for the event and services to the visitors;
- Information section with #GuideEkb travel guide with reports about the city attractions, museums, theatres etc.
The Facebook content was uploaded in English only since this network was used for communication with and services to the foreign supporters and visitors to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Yekaterinburg.
At the project implementation stage, the team uploaded the above contents as required by the content plan with analyses of feedbacks from the target groups to manage the services provided as required by the project concept.
Let us give an example of the content management in the above social networks. Since the core mission of the campaign was to attract the potential visitors to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Yekaterinburg and help them, a special priority was given to the contents helpful for the visitors and even locals looking forward to having fun on the weekend in Yekaterinburg. With this purpose the project team offered #GuideEkb travel guide to help the visitors find attractions in the city. The hashtag was designed to help every interested individual find the cultural/ entertainment events and services of interest. A special emphasis in the guide was made on the information accessibility and compatibility with the popular digital services – so that everybody could find it via the own smart phone. The content was fully customized to requirements of the relevant social media resources and generously visualized to make the information more appealing and eye-catching. The uploaded content was supplemented by the following materials:
- Categorized statistics and information graphics i.e. charts and diagrams of interest for the specific group;
- References to the relevant useful links including the sport-specific/ tourist blogs or guides;
- Recommended reference literature with abstracts; and
- Information about the regional/ national holidays of the nations competing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Yekaterinburg.
The above content was illustrated by photo galleries to familiarize the target groups with Yekaterinburg and its socio-cultural landscapes. The photo galleries uploading component was supported by contests of the local photographers in topics directly related to the football event and local attractions. Such creative designs encouraged broader participation of the target communities and success of the efforts to promote the branding platform.
Conclusion. The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Yekaterinburg and its heritage management campaign driven by the relevant PR toolkit helped lure business communities, government agencies and communities to projects in the Sverdlovsk Oblast tourist sector. The Yekaterinburg city branding PR project geared to promote the tourist and recreation services of the region and Yekaterinburg and inform the potential visitors and tourists on the socio-cultural landscape in the city was successful. The PR project designed with due emphasis on the local identity in the context of the national cultural and ethnic values, supported by the relevant resources helped promote brand name of Yekaterinburg city.
The local socio-cultural heritage and resource employment policies and practices should be ranked among the key success criteria for the top-ranking sport event hosting projects by the municipal, regional and national governments. The major international sport events like the 2018 FIFA World Cup provide a strong impetus for development in many aspects and sectors. The modern sport event promotion and marketing tools that are increasingly popular the world over must be efficiently applied to capitalize on the heritage of the major international sport events with their potential benefits further explored by the national science.
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Every top-ranking international competitive event always leaves behind its rich economic and socio-cultural heritage that may and must be employed for progress of the host cities and tourist sector. The event hosting stage shall be followed by its heritage management stage that may be interpreted as the project to secure progress in every economic, social, cultural and environmental sector of the host region and nation. A special priority in these efforts will be given to the relevant communication tools (modern PR toolkit) to lure the public attention to and support for the major event and efficiently manage its heritage. The PR toolkit to will be used to implement a multipurpose action plan including, among other things, promotion of the host city in the context of the sport event so as to employ its positive aftereffects to lure the target groups and spur up the flow of investments into the area. The article analyzes the practical experience of the PR management project to promote Yekaterinburg city as a tourist attraction center based on the heritage left behind by the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.