May 2015 marked the launch of the Women’s Sport Trust’s annual #BeAGameChanger Awards, sponsored by Microsoft. The aim of these annual Awards is to celebrate and reward those individuals and organisations doing the most to progress women’s sport, with a view to stimulating others to follow their example. WST received around 150 diverse nominations across the 8 Award categories, which were whittled down to 26 finalists by our expert panel. The winners were identified through a public vote, where around 25,000 votes were cast by 3,784 individuals, and were announced at the Awards event.
There was a very impressive line-up of winners with the Sporting Role Model Award being presented to Olympic gold medallist Nicola Adams MBE. Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson was awarded Ambassador of Women’s Sport and Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign was awarded the Inspiring Participation award, with Newton Investment Management and the Women’s Boat Race recognised as Sponsorship of the Year.
The importance of media coverage along with powerful, accessible imagery was a key theme for the evening, with BBC Sport receiving Media Outlet of the Year, Jessica Creighton awarded Journalist of the Year and Skate Girls of Kabul winning Imagery of the Year. There was huge applause in the room when veteran sports journalist Sue Mott was presented with a special award – Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Sport.
The common thread that links all of these incredible Award winners is that they act as powerful role models – whether they be individuals, organisations, projects or initiatives – who are aware of their potential to influence others and intentionally choose to use this influence to create positive change for women in sport. Each has played their role – whether it be Nicola Adams, credited with a 50% increase in women taking up some form of boxing or the historical racing of the Women’s Oxford versus Cambridge boat race on the same day and over the same course as the men’s race in 2015 through to the “This Girl Can” campaign which has had more than 25 million views online and has inspired women and girls to get active. Great sport can inspire ambition, challenge perceptions and send a positive message about what women and girls are capable of.
The event was attended by a high profile audience of 270 people, including some of the country’s leading athletes, politicians, journalists and corporate leaders, who were treated to an enlightening and hilarious panel discussion of past and present elite athletes about changing attitudes to women’s sport and their hopes for the future. You can see this discussion, hosted by broadcaster Alice Arnold and the the panel, which included former England cricket captain Baroness Rachel Heyhoe-Flint OBE, Olympic champion cyclist Nicole Cooke MBE, Skeleton Olympic champion Lizzie Yarnold MBE and promising British weightlifter Mercy Brown here (insert YouTube link).
From a media and social media perspective, the event was a resounding success with 5.8 million impressions across Twitter, WST trending number one on Twitter in the UK, for 12 minutes during the event and the use of media content from the awards being used by the BBC and Sky Sports as part of their Women’s Sport Week coverage.
The other exciting outcome of the evening was the translation of a discussion between two athlete role models – Chemmy Alcott and Jenny Jones and their desire to give athlete role models a voice – into the establishment of a web-based platform, called The Mixed Zone that presents stories and insight from leading journalists and athletes. Read more about this in the next article.
The 2015 #BeAGameChanger Awards may be behind us but planning is already underway for the 2016 #BeAGameChanger awards, which will be launched in early 2016. Keep your eyes on WST’s website for more information.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ros Kirkland, Director of Operations (Job-Share) and Trustee of the Women’s Sport Trust.