When football clubs appear outside of the sports pages it tends to be for the wrong reasons. However, the BBC this week reported on new research in the Lancet that reveals they have a major positive role to play in tackling middle-aged males’ obesity levels. It caught my eye as it’s a great example of a well-executed campaign that uses the principles of behavioural change theory to engage a hard to reach group.
The Football Fans in Training initiative has seen the University of Glasgow work with the Scottish Professional Football league to offer men a free 12-week healthy eating and fitness course at their favourite Scottish Premier League (SPL) football club. The results speak for themselves as those who’ve completed the programme lost a staggering nine times as much weight as those only given the conventional dietary advice.
A heavy issue to Tackle
We all know the UK faces a growing obesity problem and if we’re honest the majority of us would probably acknowledge we could be doing more to eat better and up our levels of exercise. So, if awareness of this issue is so high then why haven’t we seen better results?
In truth, obesity is just one more of those issues where the main barrier isn’t knowledge, but the need to give people an immediate incentive to change their ways. This is particularly the case for middle-aged men who are statistically very unlikely to attend a weight loss group. Look at the advertising for Weightwatchers, Slimming World or any of their competitors and you’ll quickly see these companies are staking their futures on a primarily female audience!
The genius of this campaign is therefore recognising that the local football team is a much better vehicle for engaging men between the age of 35 and 65 and building everything else from this starting point.
A Team sport
For me the key takeaway from this campaign is the importance of appropriate partnerships – only by working with the SPL has the University of Glasgow been able to so spectacularly achieve its objective. Plus it’s a win-win as its positive exposure for the clubs and a tangible demonstration of their local community commitments.
I’d love to hear of other campaigns that have used behavioural change to address important societal challenges so please do use the comments to share your best examples.
Otherwise, view this gallery to see some professional footballers who may have benefitted from the campaign themselves!