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Marketing the reopening of Leisure & Cultural Facilities

The COVID 19 pandemic has impacted everyone. It’s caused highs and lows, from uncertainty and panic to taking a step back and coming up with brilliant ideas. We are all looking to create the best way forward as we enter the next phase. Strategic and Partnerships Director, Tom Gozna talks us through the challenge and provides a free guide and toolkit.

From a marketing perspective we have seen a new wave of “buzz words” banded around that could either inspire or just plainly confuse you, the biggest buzz word I think we all now recognise is Zoom or Teams, even my Dad is now getting the hang of it!! There are also lots of “experts” suddenly promising to totally change your business forever as if it were amazing that you were running successful businesses before. Fortunately, there has also been some great collaborations, research and support being offered in our industry to help when it has been needed most of all!

We are all going to need to adapt and review our marketing as the world is going to be a very different place and buying patterns and consumer confidence are going to vary massively, however does this mean completely throwing away the years of effort and exposure that you have already worked so hard to achieve through your pre Covid marketing! In my opinion as a rule the answer is NO!

How many people were already creating their annual plans and budgets to run from April for the next financial year and had loads of ideas ready to roll out… these do not need to be thrown out to start again! YES 100% we need to look back and review and understand

  • What we were doing before, what worked, what did not and why!
  • What could or should we do differently?
  • Is our message still clear and relevant to the audience and consistent to what we are trying to achieve?
  • Do our products and services still to make a difference to the consumer!
  • What stands us apart from our competition?
  • How do we communicate and showcase ourselves now and in the future!

Hopefully, most of this was already happening before we entered lockdown, I am not sure anyone is really a “marketing expert” in an industry that is constantly changing?  I am sure we are all guilty of not getting it right every time and worrying what the competition might be doing,  but during this unprecedented time where we plan the future there is also lots to be proud of from our past achievements that helps to focus our attentions on a brighter future which will invariably come with quite a few bumps along the way.

As we now all develop plans for re-opening of the industry in what will be different set up it should not mean we need to suddenly drop all the good practice and logic that has been built up to create a completely new marketing strategy. Plans do not need to be overcomplicated to try and be everything to everyone. We already had our own niche audiences and unique selling points; these people are still there along with similar audiences and there will inevitably be new opportunities due to the obvious growth in digital solutions.

We can also take confidence in the fact that the nations perceptions and thoughts around being active and the benefits of physical activity may well have changed for the good!

Professor Chris Whitty the Chief Medical Officer summed up the message perfectly on April 15th

“There is no situation, no age, no condition, where exercise is not a good thing”

The huge efforts to keep members and the wider community engaged over the past few months through the variety of channels will have ensured that our brands are still relevant and now is the time that we start building back up to whatever the new normal might be!

Like myself I am sure plans are now underway and my key list of actions will be

  • Maintaining a presence and continued engagement on our digital channels
  • Keeping existing members informed and up to date, whilst building confidence that it will safe to return and that we are following guidelines
  • Finalising all operational marketing practices and guidelines for staff and customers
  • Agreeing who and how we target the wider community ensuring our key messages are front and centre to our marketing
  • Use real assets wherever possible
  • Use the data and research and customer insights to make informed decisions
  • Focus on the positive opportunities whilst maintaining the best practice from previous experience
  • Tiering all plans to be reactive depending on how guidelines change with a lead in approach to opening followed by an opening phase
  • Gearing our marketing and spend to the relevant audiences at the relevant time
  • Generating new leads

It is certainly going to be a challenging time for the leisure industry! My key tact now is do not panic, remember that you were doing a good job before this and that we will not get it right every time, be brave, adapt and overcome!

If you are a trust and would like to join the National campaign supported by Community Leisure UK, Get U Back, please sign up here.


To get a FREE ‘Marketing your reopening’ campaign Guide download it here.

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