4 Sep 2020

Ask yourself what your top concern is in the post-COVID world, and it is unlikely to be sport.

Yet, the role sport will play as the world rewires itself is an integral one. In fact, one of the most important of all.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the doors of our leisure centres, our stadiums, our tracks and fields were slammed shut as, unlike ever before, the world became grounded. Sporting venues, once the hub of our social and physical activities, became shrouded in an eerie silence.

But this does not mean we down tools and hit pause on sporting activity, for it is not only one epidemic we are in – it is two.

The World Obesity Federation recently discovered that obesity-related conditions seem to worsen the effect of COVID-19 – particularly heart disease and diabetes. This, twinned with the daunting realism that 28% of UK adults are obese and as a nation we record 30,000 deaths due to obesity every year, puts us in the centre of a two-opponent fight.

But it is one we can win, and one which, with the right tools, we can tackle.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, icons in the world of sport have been dominant in helping to get the nation active, safely and effectively.

Sporting influencers proved in March how quickly this can be done. Marcus Rashford was one of many stars to take part in the #StayAtHomeChallenge, Team GB athlete Max Whitlock took to social media to present a series of HIIT workouts, while near on every parent in the UK saw an episode of Joe Wick’s PE With Joe.

‘Covid-proof’ brands soon followed, with Peloton investing heavily in digital promotion, taking its workouts fully online to millions of Brits prevented from their on-road cycling session. Meanwhile, Strava, the #1 fitness tracking app for cyclists and runners, made no secret that 7 of its 32 activity types can be completed at home – and even released beginners’ guides for first time yogi, rowers or treadmill runners.

But as the nation begins to find its feet at the dawn of a ‘new normal’, it is now vital that from a long-term approach brands continue to understand, and strategise around, the pandemic so that it is two fights, not one, that are combatted.

Sport England’s Return to Play is a shining example of how a brand can execute this, creating a library of advice on how sport and physical activity can prepare for, and successfully return to, play.

It has been five months since COVID-19 sweeped the nation, and as we continue to recover we are all bound to experience fear, nervousness, and huge shifts in our daily routines. A support network is key – particularly one that will keep us moving.

Now more than ever the health of the nation is our greatest currency, and it is absolutely pivotal that sporting bodies and brands become a beacon – equipped with the right tools, and the right communications – that will shine brightly as we begin to re-address our health status.

As a new world looms upon us, we must look towards these beacons, for it is these that must be the driving force we need to reinvigorate, re-establish, and rewire our nation’s health.