Toyota and Rio games opened the door to Paralympians going mainstream

The arrival of Australia’s Paralympians on free-to-air TV and the support of one of Australia’s biggest marketers in Toyota has started to position Paralympic sports alongside maistream Australian sports, but the challenge remains in keeping athletes in the spotlight between major events, the CEO of the Australian Paralympic Committee has admitted.

Speaking at the Mumbrella Sports Marketing Summit in Sydney, Lynne Anderson said the exposure last year and an enviable medal haul could be the catalyst to see para sports become a regular viewing experience for Australian sports fans, creating a platform for even more sponsorship support.

She described the opportunity of extending the appeal of para sports beyond the window of the Games as “our biggest challenge” but believed the door had also been opened by Australia’s willingness to embrace more diverse sporting content such as the WAFL and WBBL.

“We have got content, funnily enough,” Anderson said.

“There is a a lot of sport happening now but a lot of it is offshore. Trying to find that little bit of oxygen in the Australian sports marketplace, that’s our biggest challenge.

“We believe there is an appetite for new sports, Nitro has shown that with new versions of sports and shortened versions,” she said, referring to the combined athletic and para sport competition fronted by Usain Bolt in Australia in February.

“I think wheelchair rugby, Murderball, it’s a no-brainer to try and get some opportunities there – so part of our planning for the next 12 months is looking at that.”

Rio has created huge opportunities for para sports back in Australia Lynne Anderson says

She said the way to bring para sports to the Australian public was a combination of delivering content on broadcast platforms as well at the Paralympics’ own platforms.

“I think the OTT and streaming opportunities absolutely play to our strength, we have got the stories, we have got the content whether it be sport overseas, whether it be a Dylan Alcott doing Triple J, we know we’ve got the content there,” she said.

“But ultimately free-to-air, as Channel Seven proved in Rio for us, is key as well. We’ve got a lot of really nice opportunities. But we’ve got a bit of hard work ahead of us.”

Gold medal tennis player Alcott was one success story of the Paralympics and has become the face of the Games – and while not all athletes have reaped big benefits from their Games’ performances, she said the door was now open for others to enjoy increased exposure.

“I think it’s still arguable whether there has been a big translation but there certainly has for some of our key players and I think Dylan Alcott is a classic example,” Anderson said.

“The difference, I have no doubt, is the Paralympic movement globally is growing so we are seeing lots more competition which means with more competition you get fantastic athletic performance and that is where people are now sitting up and saying ‘Wow.'”


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