EFDS behaviour change project aims to shape sport for disabled people

The English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) is embarking on an exciting multi-stage project. Designed to understand what motivates disabled people in their everyday lives and how this relates to sport, the project is insight-led. The outcomes will help EFDS to support their partners and shape offers for disabled people that are engaging, relevant and appropriate.

Last year was a crucial milestone in sport for disabled people. EFDS’s Paralympic Legacy report showed that eight out of ten disabled people were considering taking part in sport after the Games in London. However, participation still indicates that four out of five disabled people are not active. To make a noticeable shift in participation rates is not a simple task and EFDS turned to behaviour change models to see if the charity could make a bigger difference in sport.

As part as the wider organisation’s future strategy, EFDS wanted to tackle a layered but important question within sport for disabled people. If the charity was to advise in greater detail about disabled people’s needs in sport, then EFDS needed to know what, where, when and how do they actually want to take part. Everybody, whether disabled or non-disabled, have motivational drivers, triggers and lifestyle needs which steer their actions to do most things in their lives. Sport and physical activity are no different. Unless there is a huge motivation to become a Paralympian, which is only a minority of disabled people, then sport and physical activity fits around their lives, not vice versa.

It is still common for a lot of providers within the sport and fitness sector to deliver programmes or opportunities which they market to disabled people as one single “target” group. There is often not even an age, impairment or gender differentiation, which creates its own barriers. EFDS is fully aware that many providers have their own capacity, money and time constraints  but if the opportunities are not being taken up, then it is important to find out why.

When you delve deeper into the motivations of disabled people - whether they even have the time or desire to look at a poster promoting a local sports opportunity - then a lot more important information is discovered. It can also help providers to market and deliver opportunities that will be successful.

EFDS already use an adapted marketing model to show how disabled people can be grouped based on engagement in sport, rather than just demographic position. It can be used for any audience to be taken through a journey from non-active to advocate of sport and physical activity. If the different marketing mix is applied effectively at each level, then it should help sustain and grow participation.

Barry Horne, Chief Executive of EFDS, said:

“We found across sport and fitness that there were a number of approaches to market segmentation which grouped participants in different ways.  However, none of these examples gave extra detail for disabled people as a market. There was a growing need to develop our own profiles, which represent disabled people as more than just a percentage of society.”

One of the outcomes from the project will be a set of profiles, which will support EFDS to tailor guidance and recommendations to stakeholders more effectively. They will highlight the type of sport interventions, likely barriers and communication preferences for different disabled people, which will reduce wasted opportunities and to meet market demand.

In November, we began the principal part of the project which was to gain detailed insight from disabled people. This was in the form of an online, paper or phone based survey. There was also a survey for representatives of disabled people to complete on behalf of the disabled person with their consent. It was important to capture non-active and active disabled people’s views to understand both the ‘why nots’ as well as the ‘whys’ of taking part in sport, as both are as important as each other.

EFDS’s Research and Insight Manager, Emma Spring, also visited some local groups to ensure the results represented people with a range of impairments. Using the same age limit as Sport England in the Active People Survey, EFDS used age groups starting from 14 years old. The main survey ran from 11 November until 31 December 2012. It was promoted through various channels and promoted widely across networks. The total sample, including all people who completed all surveys was 482 (386 from the main survey and 94 from the easy-read questionnaire).

Since the completion date, EFDS’s team have been pulling together all the insight gained and it will be an exciting time when the report is published in the next few months. The report outlines the key findings of the first phase of the project- a quantitative study designed to understand:

  • What disabled people enjoy doing in their spare time
  • How, if at all, sport fits into their lives compared to other hobbies and interests
  • What are the opinions and experiences of sport, exercise and physical activity
  • Which kind of people to disabled people are role models, who influence opinions and attitudes
  • How do disabled people interpret the terminology used within the sports sector
  • How do disabled people seek information about new hobbies and interests

This report will also look into and identify the extent to which different demographic characteristics impact on responses. The demographic groups include gender, age, type of impairment, whether the impairment is congenital (born with) or acquired (developed after birth), education (mainstream or special school) and their current activity status.

Through this initial research, EFDS with the expert support of sustainable behaviour change agency Corporate Culture, will draft profiles for disabled people. This will give the organisation working profiles to move on to the primary research stage. EFDS and Corporate Culture will produce a qualitative study with disabled people to ensure the market segments identified are accurate and meaningful.

Once these key stages of insight are completed, EFDS can promote the finished profiles. Horne continued:

“EFDS is extremely excited about presenting the results of each stage, which will be of great use to the sport and fitness sectors. It will also be important to present the findings to disabled people, who will be asked on a yearly basis to monitor change in lifestyles.”

An important part of the behaviour change journey for disabled people is that they are listened to, given opportunities they actually want to take part in and are effectively engaged in the promotional activity. This insight does exactly that and has promising prospects to shape the future of sport for disabled people.

For more information:

Emma Spring, Research and Insight Manager

Sarah Marl, Marketing and Communications Manager, 07764 291671