Hannah Sprake joined SMS in 2019. Initially overseeing the cycling market data service, Hannah is now launching a new series of projects for SMS with a focus on grassroots sport. The first project of the series, Sporting Journeys, looks at how Britain’s sports and leisure playing habits change over the course of people’s lives. It will be available to purchase Autumn 2021.
We caught up with Hannah to ask about her sporting journey, influences and hopes for the future.
Q: Which sports athlete/player most inspired you and why?
A: Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill – A world class athlete in her sport who has overcome both Olympic heartbreak in 2008 and overwhelming Olympic pressure in 2012, as well as coming back to compete on a world stage after having her son. Off the track she now campaigns for and works to help more women to benefit from physical activity. An inspiring woman who those in sport and out of sport can learn from.
Q: What is your favourite sporting moment you have seen live?
A: Watching the England Women’s hockey team win gold at the EuroHockey Championships in 2015. It had everything – coming back from 2-0 down, a penalty shootout and turns out it was a great warm up for the Rio 2016 gold medal match 😉.
Q: What value can research and insight bring to grassroots sport?
A: My first real encounter was with Sport England’s Market Segmentation web tool. I thought it was great! Being able to understand current and potential participants’ behaviours and motivations at such a granular level including their latent demand for sports and how to reach the different segments was so useful. It enabled me to be much more strategic with my programme design and marketing at a local level. Later NGBs began to share sport specific market segmentation toolkits which were even more targeted. Having worked in both the public and private sports sector when this insight was being shared, I was able to apply it to a range of settings and audiences, and work more efficiently and with more partners.
Q: What is the biggest misconception you hear about women’s sport?
A: “It’s just not the same as men’s sport.” There seems to be a misguided assumption that we should compare women’s sport with men’s sport. But they need to be considered on their own merits. Beyond the obvious physical differences and sporting rule similarities, women’s sport has its own identity. It reaches different audiences, creates a different live sporting environment and importantly women’s sporting stars have their own stories and it’s these we should be seeking to celebrate.
Q: What do you think the future holds for the role of research and insights in grassroots sport?
A: The use and value of research and insights in grassroots sport development is only going to continue to grow. Understanding the lived experiences and needs of underrepresented and unengaged communities is going to be vital to the industry’s success of improving the health of the nation. I am really curious to see how organisations across the industry innovate to give these communities a voice and facilitate their collaboration in programme and infrastructure provision at a local level. It’s great to see that high quality data and insights is firmly embedded in Sport England’s 10-year strategy, and that sharing the understandings uncovered and making it easier for everyone to access and use is already identified as a key action. Research and insight is most valuable when its in the hands of those working on the ground; hiding in a report on a an obscure url will not help to make the difference to people’s lives.