London's 'Summer of World Athletics' brought in over £100 million

03 January 2018 6 min. read
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In 2017, London became the first city to have ever hosted the World Para Athletics Championships and IAAF World Championships in the same year and the same stadium. More than a million spectators attended the games. According to new analysis, the direct economic impact of the UK capital’s ‘Summer of World Athletics’ totalled close to £110 million, while the legacy of the games could bring in twice that figure, as nine out of ten attendees said they would now recommend the city as a tourist destination.

The study, delivered by The Sports Consultancy, in partnership with Nielsen Sports, Gracenote and PCSG, assessed the total direct economic impact of the Summer of World Athletics as exceeding £107million. It was undertaken following the World Para Athletics Championships and IAAF World Championships London 2017, and has revealed the positive impact that the ‘Summer of World Athletics’ had on the city, with unprecedented results achieved.

London was first awarded the right to host the 2017 IAAF World Athletics Championships in late 2011, following a successful bid made jointly by UK Athletics (UKA) and the Greater London Authority (GLA). The landmark decision to co-schedule and co-host the two events was announced a year later in December 2012. While this arrangement had never been executed before, the pioneering choice by the two bodies seems to have paid major dividends for London’s economy.

According to researchers, the two athletics tournaments generated a direct economic impact of £107,172,377. However, when considering indirect economic impacts, the games could have brought in a potential total economic impact of £147-216 million in the UK’s largest city, resulting in a total contribution to GDP of between £61,525,518 and £90,059,092. This impact was generated by various groups, including spectators, athletes and officials, media and the organisers themselves.

High stakes

A large portion of the best-case-scenario £216 million economic impact will likely have come through traditional media coverage. The Championships delivered a total QI Media Value of £143 million, thanks to their vast TV distribution. 95% of the media value can be directly attributed to TV coverage, making the visibility of London high throughout the ‘Summer of World Athletics’. Throughout the events, this profile continued to grow, as analysis of the cumulative audience by event-day for the World Para Athletics Championships showed a steady increase throughout the event, ranging from 1.25 million to 2.68 million viewers.Total Media Coverage

This high visibility for the city was most prominently felt via TV graphics, providing the largest chunk of QI Media Value, at £52.2 million. London maintained excellent presence within many aspects of the coverage, primarily in race and result-lists, which drove high levels of visibility. London’s visibility on the Competitors delivered a total of £16.2 million QI Media Value, while verbal mentions of London via commentators and pundits provided £8.7 million in value. Each of these factors will have likely had a positive impact on viewers’ inclination to visit the city as tourists, justifying their inclusion in the potential value of the games.

In terms of social media, there were a further 1.6 billion potential social media impressions created via the #IAAFWorlds and #ParaAthletics hashtags, and 4 million views alone for two videos of official IAAF World Championships mascot Hero the Hedgehog. While the organisers commanded a hefty social media presence, established broadcasters leveraged non-traditional forms of media to reach even larger audiences, contributing further potential value. QI value for the social media output of all monitored partners at the games reached £402,433. Of this, BBC Sport generated a significantly higher social media value than any other media/broadcaster. While this was partly due to its status as the home market broadcaster, the platform received a further 1,352 brand exposures through its social media content output. This was significantly more frequently than any other media/broadcaster account (SuperSport received the second highest volume of exposures with 151).

Alongside this, the substantial physical turnout of athletics enthusiasts will also contribute significant value of this kind. While London hosted more than 3,300 athletes from more than 200 nations competing in the 30 sessions across 20 days, more than a million people attended both Championships with events not just held in the London Stadium but across the capital. The IAAF World Championships were awarded a Guinness World Record for tickets sold in excess of 705,000, whilst the World Para Athletics Championships exceeded the figures for all previous editions of the event combined with 305,000 ticket sales.

Total QI Media Value attributed to London

Future benefits

These were not just single-engagement visitors either, which stands to further benefit the city in the future.  Over 90% of all attendees surveyed said they would recommend London as a tourist destination from now on, while 73% of those at the World Athletics Championships, and 69% of those at the World Para Athletics Championships said the games had increased their likelihood of visiting London again in the following two years.

Sport in London is already seeing a positive impact from its prospective windfall. According to the report, a £2.1 million investment has been made into grassroots athletics and running with the official inspiration programme and ‘Team Personal Best’ engaging with 250,000 people through 733 events, with 250 held in the host city alone. Further, an average of 45% of those surveyed said that they had been inspired to do sport or active recreation more often than usual as a result of attending the Championships.

Commenting on the successful combination, UK Athletics Chair Richard Bowker said, “Not only can we reflect so positively on the efforts that went into organising what are unanimously being regarded as ‘best ever’ championships, UK Athletics is immensely proud of all the British athletes who competed in London this summer. We are confident the performances demonstrate we are in great shape as we continue to prepare for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.”

Remarking on the positive events, amidst a traumatic year for London, the city’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, added, “Our great city made a huge success of hosting both the World Para Athletics Championships and the IAAF World Championships – the first time both events had ever been staged in the same stadium, in the same year. London 2017 provided a lifetime of memories and showed that London is, without question, the sporting capital of the world.”

Over the past five years, London has been working particularly hard to cement the sporting and social legacy of the 2012 London Olympics. While the ‘Summer of Athletics’ relied on infrastructure originally installed for those games, this attempt at legacy creation also saw consulting firm Deloitte help UK graduates to find accommodation in flats in the former Olympic Village.