Seven League renews partnership with Commonwealth champions England Netball
The first time I ever walked through England Netball's doors - at their old office in Hitchin, Hertfordshire - was in March 2017, and I had worked for Seven League for precisely three weeks.
I did not imagine at that moment that just over one year later, Netball would be the headline item on the national news, on the front page of national newspapers, and mentioned by the Prime Minister during PMQs - and unlike some sports that have ticked off all three of those, this was for all the right reasons.
This moment in the full beam of the media spotlight came about, of course, because England Netball reached the Commonwealth Games final for the first time in their history and then shocked host nation Australia in the gold-medal match, with a last-second winning goal from Helen Housby.
When that goal went in, I punched the air in delight for everyone involved - CEO Joanna Adams, her (all-female) executive team, the Roses team management and players, and everyone who works for the organisation.
I was also proud that the digital strategy we set out for England Netball a year ago meant they were well-prepared to capitalise on a sudden rush of increased interest.
That strategy was built around a need to reflect the sport at elite level, and the booming grassroots game (netball is the fourth biggest team sport in England and by far the most-played team sport for women and girls, with 1.4 million playing in any given season).
We did that by overhauling England Netball's social media platforms from the bottom up, establishing a new content style and tone of voice, increasing exposure for England Netball's website with tools such as Google Posts, and putting in place digital analytics reporting so senior management, and the partnerships team, have a clear sense of digital performance and the value of the channels.
The channels are moving in the right direction - between March 2017 and March 2018 the England Netball Facebook page grew from 33k likes to 40k likes, and because of the Commonwealth Games triumph, one month later that stands at 50k. On Instagram we grew the channel from 14k to 21k between March '17 and March '18, and the Commonwealths effect has boosted that to 31k one month later. Across the weekend of the semi-final and final, England Netball content across all social channels reached around two million people.
That exposure is wonderful, but it is vital to translate it into tangible benefits for the sport. So it was a highly encouraging to note that traffic to the section of England Netball's website where you can find out where and how to play, was up 2000% month-on-month. There was also plenty of anecdotal evidence via Twitter that the Roses' victory had inspired people to walk through the doors of their local leisure centre.
There is much still to do. Joanna Adams has a bold, ambitious vision for England Netball to be the best digital organisation for women and girls, inside or outside of sport, and that is an enticing challenge for us to deliver. Digital is at its most effective when aligned to an organisational vision and deployed to deliver it.
From my point of view, it is a privilege to be involved and I am thrilled to announce here that Seven League's partnership with England Netball has been extended for another year - taking us into 2019, when the Netball World Cup arrives on home soil, in Liverpool.
Not only do we get to work with a friendly, hard-working team that works hard and together to move the organisation forward, but it's motivating to know the work is making a difference to people's lives. Netball has many versions of the game, for all ages and levels of fitness, and when digital raises awareness of that, and facilitates women and girls getting fit and staying active, it makes all the hard work worthwhile.
As we deliver more of the ambitious digital strategy we set out with England Netball a year ago, we will return here to update. In the meantime, get following England Netball on social media, and if you or anyone you know wants to give netball a try, the session finder is here.