There was great news last week for everybody involved in working towards getting Britain more active. With the announcement that Sports England would provide grant funding to the new ‘Britain on Foot’ campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to encourage members of the public to become more active, doing anything from simply walking to work right the way through to somewhat more adventurous pursuits such as mountaineering.
The campaign which, brings together the Outdoors Industries Association and a wide range of partners, aims to form a nationally recognised umbrella for a range of local initiatives that often don’t get the recognition (and funding) required to maintain their good work.
The campaign sounds like a great opportunity to really develop and bring together a number of disparate providers under one banner. Critics may argue that the campaign, which is comprised of a number of retailers and outdoor clothing manufacturers, is a cynical move designed to raise awareness of the products produced by these companies. However many smaller providers in the outdoor activity space have a slightly unenviable reputation as being a little bit backward looking and reluctant to embrace innovation and technology, there still remains a slightly negative perception amongst the public that things like hill walking and geocaching are the preserve of people who wear woolly hats, green wellies and fluorescent macs.
There’s no denying that as several countries enter serious and prolonged recessions more and more people with limited income will be more inclined to reconnect with nature and enjoy the great outdoors, however accessing information relating to the types of outdoor activities that are available can sometimes be difficult as most people choose to look on the Internet in order to access this information, information provided by the same companies who are reluctant to embrace new technology. This creates somewhat of a paradox as people want to get out and do more, but lack the knowledge, information, and know-how, to identify easy to access opportunities and accessible outdoor spaces. The Britain on Foot campaign seeks to try and redress the balance by looking at the things that make it more likely that people will engage in new outdoor activities.
So where do you begin when it comes trying to find new activities to do, naturally the companies that embrace the idea that most people nowadays search on the Internet for information will prosper in this new era. As I was researching this piece I decided to look on the Internet for things to do in Hampshire, the county where I grew up. I was quite surprised at the level of information available from the public sector but less so from the private sector. Walking maps and cycle routes were in abundance but as I mentioned before these have a slightly stale image, so what about trying something a little bit new? There were several companies that stood out, some clearly keen to embrace new approaches to getting people out and about and becoming more active. On the flip side there were also plenty of companies with very basic, unimaginative, and uninformative websites that were a struggle to use.
Undoubtedly as economic times continue to tighten its clear that more people will reconnect with activities, hobbies and pastimes that they may have recently forgotten about, including making use of the abundant outdoors and the huge range of opportunities it presents. This new campaign is clearly aimed at tapping into that emerging interest, and in turn the commercial opportunities that it yields.