|Calling all VIMPs!|
|Written by Bridie O'Donnell|
|Tuesday, 15 May 2012 03:41|
Often, our lack of concern for minority groups comes, simply, from a lack of exposure (or proximity) to their way of life.
This concept of social proximity is based on the notion that people within the same group are interconnected and share successes and failures and therefore experience more sympathy towards each other than to out-group members, or social outsiders.
Sympathy can be generally defined as the concern for the well-being of another. Slightly different is the concept of empathy: the capacity to recognize feelings that are being experienced by another. It can be further expanded to encapsulate a variety of situations and contexts.
Within elite sport, we have our own minority groups: sports with underfunded federations, difficult personalities or those that are inaccessible to fans. Sadly, the lack of major network/newspaper media coverage for many sports ensures this cycle will continue.
If 90% of column inches are devoted to one sport, played in only three states of our country, perhaps… (I’m talking to you, AFL!), understandably, we all get very good at footy tipping, commenting on the intricacies of groin strains & yelling at the umpire.
Anyone who’s played a ‘minor’ sport, any para-athlete, most female athletes and basically anyone who’s not a cricketer or footballer is going to struggle to get recognised for their talent and commitment in Australia.
Of course, social proximity to any of these elite athletes changes everything.
If you know an athlete with a disability, chances are you think about how frustrating it might be to have to travel with your equipment AND your wheelchair, or navigate busy city streets that are not conducive to those don’t perambulate on two legs.
If you’re directly related to an elite female athlete, have one as a girlfriend, or live with one, you see her struggle just to get her job done.
Former World Champion & top ranked BMX rider, Caroline Buchanan certainly has a hard time scrambling cash together to get herself to World Cup qualifiers. A very different story from her boy BMX peers.
That’s where social media, blogging and shameless calls for Twitter followers are so completely appropriate in these circumstances. We know more about the results of women’s cycling as they happen than ever before.
We have fabulous, motivated and dedicated journalists publishing articles. We have soigniers, team directors and mechanics who give us splits in world cups and photographers to give us pictures of riders on the podium AS THEY HAPPEN. Far outdoing the next-day tiny paragraph in a national newspaper.
However, to reach the fan base of the sport which has no social proximity to women’s cycling, we need to enlist (or conscript) the VIMPs, the Very Important Male Professionals.
Bradley Wiggins is already a great supporter of the Matrix Fitness/Prendas team because he has a connection to the team. He hits their website regularly & makes reference to the race results of this highly organised outfit run by Stefan Wyman on a shoestring budget.
Excellent Lottettes like Greg Henderson (married to former World Champion Katie Mactier) and Adam Hansen frequently interact with pro female riders from the Women's Lotto Belilsol team on social media, and it's a terrific example of leverage and cross promotion.
Over 288 THOUSAND people tune in to hear Mark Cavendish tweet. Imagine if he made reference to the performances of his country-women Lizzie Armistead and Nicole Cooke every time they won a race, especially in the lead up to their home games.
Why should he? You may ask. Sure, it’s not his job to help the fans reach another less important section of his beloved sport. But I guarantee you, if his newly born daughter Delilah gets on a bike, he will be her biggest advocate. Why wait another 12 years, eh Mark?
Paolo Longho-Borghini (Liquigas Cannondale) is superdomestique to two-time Giro d’Italia winner, Ivan Basso. He’s also the older brother of the very talented Elisa (Hitec Products/ Mistral Home), my team-mate at Fassa last season, now riding for World no. 3 from Sweden, Emma Johansson.
These two have a pedigree nearly as extraordinary as Taylor Phinney who’s Mom won the first Olympic gold medal for women in the road race, and either Mamma or Papa Longho-Borghini was a regular fixture at our races in Italy last season.
Paolo accepts his sister’s determination, commitment, triumphs and disappointments in cycling as a normal part of life. Although Italian women probably compete in sport less than they get promoted to positions of power by the former President….
So, here’s what I want you to do: tell all your cycling fan friends to start doing their homework. It’s an Olympic year, and they can do their bit by knowing who the world’s best women cyclists are.
Follow some of these terrific people to get fast, insider knowledge on the teams, the riders, who’s likely to get selected and who’s got the form to win.
Get yourself some context, some social proximity and demand a higher standard of reporting from the bigger newspapers and tv stations!
Digital media manager of Team Matrix Fitness/Prendas Stuart MacLean