A PRWeek Asia award-winning campaign credited with revolutionizing attitudes toward homosexuality in Australian sport is seeking comms support to extend its work across Asia.
The volunteer-led campaign began in 2012 when members of Australia’s first gay rugby team, the Sydney Convicts, sought to stage the 2014 Bingham Cup – considered the world cup of gay rugby.
The group managed to secure the support of the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, followed by the backing of John Eales, arguably the world’s most respected rugby player and Australian Rugby Union board member.
As a result, all Australian sports committed at a nationally televised press conference to eliminate homophobia and implement an Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework.
Athletes from every sport became ‘ambassadors’ and spoke to the media or at events about ending homophobia. It generated 3,000 plus media articles and features around the world.
But having achieved success in Australia, Sydney Convicts and Bingham Cup media manager Erik Denison said there was now a need to support other LGBT groups in Asia as they seek to tackle homophobia through sport.
"The issue of homophobia in sport is in no way unique to Australia. In many Asian countries, where there is still reluctance to talk about it, sport can lead society," he said.
"In most Asian countries there is not a great deal of hope of getting gay marriage. But, perhaps that can be put aside and the focus can start on sport and youth sport in particular."
Key to any future success, however, is gaining PR and communications support from agencies in Asia.
In Australia, the group was backed on a purely pro-bono basis by independent agency SBPR.
"We approached quite a few large PR companies, but it is still something of a taboo subject. This is a complex issue, but it is one that saves kids’ lives. Even the most conservative estimates show there is a far higher rate of suicide among gay kids than straight ones.
"We have been dumbfounded by the success we have had because we are just a bunch of volunteers."
SBPR founder Sally Burleigh said the agency was responsible for broadening the campaign’s reach across consumer media outlets when it came on board last year, two years after the project was launched.
"When we first met with them a lot had already been done, but we were able to widen the communication message and take it to a bigger audience across social media, consumer media and make a connection with the campaign on a lifestyle level," she said.
"We were also able to advise them around media and photo calls, suggest the right tone to use, assess how to utilize celebrity endorsements and widen the scope of the audience
"What has happened in America is the last week is making this very topical. Change is in the air and it would be great if we can get more PR support from across Asia."
Denison said he had been contact by groups in Asia that wanted to do similar work, but they can’t do it alone.
"For the first few years we were dumbfounded at what we were able to achieve just by bumbling along. Imagine what these groups could do with an effective PR agency behind them," he added.
"This would be a great global project for agencies to bring to Asia."
Anyone wishing to offer support can contact Erik at email@example.com
Case study: Kicking homophobia into touch
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