News & Updates

6 October 2021 • Community

Best foot forward

Takapuna Amateur Athletics and Harrier Club

Many clubs up and down the country are doing their very best to deal with the challenges of the ongoing global pandemic. Steve Landells found out more about the forward-thinking approach of one such club on Auckland’s North Shore.

Excellent preparedness and consistent and relevant communication has put Takapuna Amateur Athletic and Harrier Club on the front foot for such a time as when Alert Levels drop in the Auckland region.

While the North Shore-based club are currently subject to a high-level of restrictions at an Alert Level 3 – the club committee has shown great initiative in their future planning.

The club has adopted a forward-thinking approach, which it is hoped will help them through not only the coming weeks and months but also future years.

“In times of uncertainty it is important we stay relevant for our members and our wider club community,” explains Jared Letica, Takapuna Athletics Committee Member and Club Captain. “You’ve got to keep communicating a clear message and for the latest stage of the pandemic we have opted to do things a little differently, adopting more of an integrated marketing campaign approach.

“We needed to communicate appropriate information to existing and potential members in a timely manner – to help them in their decision-making as to whether they commit to joining us for the upcoming season given the uncertainty COVID-19 brings. It was important to say we were ready and adaptive and that at every stage we will continue to communicate and share information.”

The club has put in place an Alert Level 2 Safety Plan and shared this information with all members and potential members – so they know how the club will deliver club nights and coaching support at Alert Level 2.

With gatherings restricted to 100 people at Alert Level 2 and the club having more than 220 members – a modified programme has been proposed which involves a lot of thought around flow management to ensure they deliver a safe and fun experience.

The current plan for Alert Level 2 is to split the club night into two clusters of up to 100 athletes across the same evening with time factored in to allow for the cleaning requirements to take place between the two clusters. There will be designated entry and exit gates, COVID-19 tracing systems, a designated spectator zone set up and consideration made for the designated volunteer helpers and officials, who are classed as ‘workers’, and are in addition to each of the 100 athlete bubbles.

“We have to be up front with people and at this stage we are looking at two grade-based clusters of up to 100 people each and to give priority to members who are registered rather than walk up potential members,” he explains.

“As we don’t yet know what our final registered numbers are going to be, we have to be transparent and we strongly encourage people to register early but if our pre-season marketing campaign goes well we may have to revisit how we incorporate a third cluster and whether that means a slightly earlier start for one cluster and a later evening for another and further refining of our modified programme schedule.”

The next phase of the campaign is communicating their message – which they have done by adopting a three-pronged approach.

Traditionally the club had focused their pre-season advertising on communicating with last season’s members and encouraging word of mouth referrals plus seeking promotion through local schools. However, over recent years schools have been increasingly reluctant to promote community organisations, so this channel would only be one of their strategies.

Reaching out to around 60 schools – primary, intermediate and high schools – across the neighbouring suburbs, Jared says they’ve done so by sending out a promotional flier to schools.

“We knew we couldn’t solely rely on the schools to get our message out, so our second strand was to launch a social media campaign through community Facebook groups. Thanks to the support of the community Facebook administrators, we’ve successfully managed to reach over 100,000 people.”

The third strand to their integrated communications strategy was to enhance their approach to refreshing the club’s website, Facebook page, and member email communications. Devoting more energy and resource to help lift engagement with our wider club community, Jared says there was another motivation for focusing on this area.

“We realise our club is competing to maintain our share of presence against other sports who are hungry for new members and need space to support their own growth,” he says. “So we see the bigger picture of maintaining our relevance to the community, with our membership and connection with our place.”

Offering a clear plan in terms of what the club can offer at an Alert Level 2 has been well received by membership – but it is not merely a short-term strategy for Takapuna Athletics.

As Jared explains, “This season is about protecting our base and we hope next year the momentum and this year’s foundational work will lead to an uplift in membership when the environment is safer and more stable.”