Monday, 31 March 2014

Sport and social media: The evolution for Equestrian activity?

In modern society today, social media has become one of the biggest influences on our daily lives and the way news in particular is spread, with the speed of the online world creating an instant platform for almost everything, with the added bonus (for the most part) of being completely free! Facebook is one of the most influential of these platforms with over 31 millions users worldwide with Twitter catching up with over 10 million users, 80% of which are actively engaging with the media via mobile devices. These statistics highlight how media is not only global, but instant and accessible almost everywhere, so utilising the online world is something every business should be taking full advantage of, as the online age never sleeps.

This is something that DMU Equestrian have sought to work on this year, engaging more actively with their participants via social media in order to keep everyone in the club updated, as well as the rest of the world about what goes on behind the scenes in equine university life. The online world is not the only accessible platform that DMU Equestrian have taken advantage of, at De Montfort University they are extremely lucky to have one of the best student newspapers, radio and TV department working for them as the Demon Media Strand. Demon Media have become an integral part of promoting and engaging with sport at the university and have aimed to focus on smaller teams and develop the social awareness through all platforms about the work that goes on in all De Montfort sports clubs. The team have worked with the budding equestrians all year to find out what really goes on in the equine world and what it takes to compete in one of our BUCS teams or simply get involved with the society. The engagement of social media platforms for equestrian activity is something that is evolving and getting bigger and better every year with Twitter, Facebook and blogging sites being amongst the most popular forms of social media. The Equestrian Social Media Awards have allowed this recognition to be acknowledged with anyone able to enter the awards and showcase their talent from blogging to Twitter usage by both amateur and professional horsemen and women. The judging panel consists of some of the leading professionals in the equestrian world from photographers right through to top class event riders who look at all the positive aspects the social media is promoting and creating for equestrian activity on a global scale.

The 2012 Olympics allowed a new audience to be introduced to the world of equine sport with Great Britain winning a total of 5 medals including the world including winning gold in both team jumping and dressage. The accessibility that the Olympics gave for people to come and witness the different disciplines from 3 day event to grand prix Paralympic dressage has moved Britain into the top rankings for equestrian sport worldwide. No longer the underdogs, British equestrian sport is at the height of success and the recent world record achievement by Charlotte Dujardin at Olympia has drove Britain to be one of the biggest threats and competitors in the world of all things equine. The 'celeb culture' has enabled smaller equine platforms to get the recognition they deserve and promote the sport and businesses that engage with equestrian mediums.

So how is social media helping university lead sport? The recent increase in Twitter profiling and the page status on Facebook has allowed university teams to expand their communication with other sports teams, universities both in and outside their own sport. This has created a level of support and activity that is positively promoting both BUCS competitive sports teams and friendly matches that go on with universities collaborating together to get more students involved in sport at their university.

Lizzie Mole, a first year student at De Montfort who has ridden on the B team for DMU Equestrian has witnessed first hand the influence that social media can have upon the promotion of sports teams and societies:

"Social media has really helped get our team heard about within the university, especially from our DMU Equestrian Twitter! More attention and support from the sports office and student union has allowed us to get a place in the Varsity 2014 promo video on YouTube which means even more promotion, which is crucial for a sports team that isn't as recognised or popular like Rugby or Football."

The team have not only worked with The Demon all year engaging with the online, newspaper, Demon TV and the famous Demon FM, but they have also expanded to work with local photographers and other students to get the most out of both the sport and the talent DMU has to offer. Zoe Walker, a third year student at the university has worked closely with the team and committee all year with the equestrian club being a primary influence for her final project. As a keen horse rider herself, Zoe knows the struggles and prejudices that equine sport can face but also the importance of involving more students in trying something new whilst at university. This acts as an example of how social media can be a mutual benefit to both sports teams and the people involved as well as other students who may just want the opportunity, like Zoe to photograph and profile something unique for free. 

"As one of the photographers for DMU Equestrian I have had my work seen by people who I would not have normally reached, the social media platforms also give me a chance to catch up on how the teams and society are progressing when I cannot make competitions or social events. I feel without the social media aspect of the club some of the members would feel a little out of the loop, so this accessibility to information helps keep everyone involved."

The profile of equestrian sport at De Montfort is better than ever with social media raising awareness and the standard of information and promotion of activity higher than ever before. The student population across all DMU sports clubs is enough to create a huge impact upon the recognition of smaller teams as much as bigger, more widely participated in sports. With the Vice Chancellor of the university being one of the most active Twitter uses at the university, the ideal scenario is set up and waiting for everyone to get out there and show off their sports team. Social media is free and accessible to millions with an endless capacity for good opportunities for all sports to take advantage of in order to make DMU a hash tag we all recognise on a global scale. 

Keep up to date and follow us on Twitter @DMUEquestrian

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