ParalympicsGB: How sport and social have a societal impact
There are some events that feel made for social media. The Paralympics are undoubtedly one of them.
But beyond the thrill of event, the victories and the losses, ParalympicsGB is a social account making huge inroads to change the perception and visibility of disabled athletes, and disability in general, right across society. With the largest social media following amongst international Paralympic social media accounts, we are delighted to hear from Kevin Crowe who is at the helm of the ParalympicsGB social accounts.
We also hear from our social media agony aunt Stacey, who helps a growing business weigh up multiple social media accounts. You can write to Stacey with your own dilemma on email@example.com, and see what our British Paralympians are up to using @ParalympicsGB and @ParalympicsGB_Official for Instagram
Cat Anderson: Welcome to Social Creatures, a podcast from Sprout Social. I’m Cat, and I’m here to explore some of my favourite success stories from the world of social media. This is a space for everyone, and really, nearly anything goes. But what makes an account successful or popular? Honestly, it’s hard to know, but that’s what we’re here to find out.
Throughout the series, we’ll talk with the brands behind the accounts you know—and some that you don’t—to explore the weird, wonderful ways that businesses, organizations, and individuals have achieved success on social media, all with tangible insights that you can apply to your own social strategies. And we’ll be heeding the advice of Stacey, our social media agony aunt, who’s here to guide you through some of your trickiest digital dilemmas.
So this week I’m joined by Kevin Crowe, the digital manager at ParalympicsGB. ParalympicsGB has been doing absolutely amazing work on social, so much so that it is one of the most followed—if not the most followed—Paralympian account on social, which I think is really, really interesting, so hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to get into that in our conversation.
Paralympics themselves grew from a small gathering of British World War II veterans in 1948, and it’s grown into one of the largest international sporting events in the early 21st century. The first official Paralympic Games, which were no longer open exclusively to war veterans, were held in Rome in 1916, in which 400 athletes with a disability from 23 countries competed.
These days though, thousands of competitors from over a hundred countries take part. And we should mention that the British Paralympians did the UK proud at this year’s competition, realizing 13 top five finishes, which is the most ever by a ParalympicsGB team at a winters games. If you would like to follow what the ParalympicsGB team is up to on social, you can search @ParalympicsGB for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok, or @ParalympicsGB_official to connect on Instagram.
Kevin, welcome to social creatures.
Kevin Crowe: Hi, Cat. Thanks for having me.
Cat Anderson: Well, thank you for coming. We’re delighted to have you. Jumping straight into the questions, Paralympics are organized in parallel with the Olympic Games, which means that both summer and winter installments are happening every single four years. And we just had the 2022 winter games this year—which have just completed—so I wonder if this is like a bittersweet moment for you, for the – the athletes, for the organizers, and for the administrators alike. Are you enjoying this opportunity to decompress? Or are you already chomping at the bit and impatient for the next event?
Kevin Crowe: [laughs] Like, the— Enjoying having my sort of feet on the ground, definitely. It’s been a – a crazy six months. The Tokyo 2021 Games—as it – as it ended up being from 2020—followed by the winter games in Beijing within a six month period. It’s unprecedented, and we hope we don’t have to do it again, but it’s been, you know, kind of a wild ride at the same time.
Paris 2024 is the next Games, and it can feel like a long way off, but also, you know, our teams are already on the ground in Paris. They’re talking to the Organizing Committee about the Village, about our preparation camps. We are starting to talk about our sort of social teams, logistics, and all that, so we sort of— We’re straight into the next thing, really.
The great thing about working on a Paralympic Games is that they go all over the world, and the next one is a new place, and Tokyo and Beijing were so different in lots of ways to the ones before, you know. They’re on Asian time zone. And Paris, you know, Milan-Cortina afterwards, you know, we’re back in Europe on, you know, similar time zones, and we’re sort of all systems go. And it’s hard not to be excited to see how some of those young athletes who came through in Tokyo are going to sort of fare in Paris.
Cat Anderson: Yeah. Oh my goodness. I do think sometimes when we chat to people like yourself who maybe work on a big event, it’s easy to think that all of your work is focused on that one moment. And because a lot of the stuff in between events maybe seems a little bit more—I don’t want to say invisible, but it’s a little less obvious for people—but it sounds like you’re straight in to planning for the next event.
Kevin Crowe: Yeah, totally. I mean, I think once upon a time it was a big conversation around, like, ‘what do we do?’ You know, ‘how do we stay relevant between Games?’ And I think one of the things we really try and do is – is help athletes build their own channels and to create public figures out of our Paralympians. The most impact that they can have on society and – and on the Paralympic movement is if they’re, you know, celebrities, household names, you know, equal to premier league footballers or your rugby players, or, you know, the Olympians from Team GB.
Like, now we have hundreds of athletes going to our summer games in between times. You know, they’re on celebrity TV shows. They’re on Strictly Come Dancing. They’re on Dancing on Ice. They’re going in the jungle. You know, so there’s lots of touch points for them to stay relevant and for the conversation to continue.
We get involved in lots of other projects at ParalympicsGB, working with different partners, like Scope on research projects, working with the national governing bodies as they go to their world championships, and things like that. You know, there’ll be sort of natural drop-off, I think, in between the Games, but actually to provide content and insight into what our athletes are doing in those in-between times is just as interesting as those big moments themselves.
Cat Anderson: Yeah, definitely. Do you mind if I just ask— You mentioned Scope. What is Scope?
Kevin Crowe: So Scope is the UK’s leading pan-disability charity. So they provide support and campaign and lobby Government across disability issues, spanning all – all the impairment groups. A lot of people might have seen sort of a – a video series that they did a few years ago called ‘End the Awkward’, which was really cool.
So it was disabled people talking about the awkward questions that they get asked and sort of the language and the humour that is sort of waiting in the wings every time people are feeling really awkward about a subject. And so they’re really great at doing stuff on social like that, but, you know, behind the scenes, providing that support to disabled people.
So we work with them. We’ve got a memorandum of understanding with Scope to work together around sort of social impact, really—so Paralympians getting involved in their work, but also us using the benefit of their research and their communities to sort of inform the work that we do outside of the sort of pure sport stuff.
Cat Anderson: I love that you’re talking about how you are promoting these athletes and Paralympians to become household names, to be in the public eye. You’re definitely much more than just the Olympic sports, the Paralympics themselves. It’s a lot more about promotion and visibility of disability in British society, would that be correct?
Kevin Crowe: Yeah, totally. I mean, we are in the game of increasing representation of disabled people in the public eye, you know. Really what we’re trying to do, you know— We’re trying to create the environment for our athletes to win at Paralympic Games and be the best sportspeople they can be.
But also, you know, we want to harness the power of that to – to create change for disabled people and, you know, discrimination, misunderstanding, perhaps, people ignoring, um, disability issues or, you know, designing society in a way that excludes disabled people, that can only happen where people aren’t aware and don’t see disabled people in the same way that every other form of discrimination happens.
So, you know, one of the most straightforward things we can do is fill the Internet, fill Twitter, fill Instagram with images of disabled people doing amazing things. You know, they might not always be winning. They might not always be, you know, creating an amazing viral moment. But you know, the pure fact that you’re seeing disabled people on your timeline has an impact on you, because the more that you see disabled people, the more that, you know, you become aware that disabled people are part of the society and there are lots more disabled people than you probably thought there were. The simple fact of that will have an impact on the way that your attitudes to – to disability—
And also for, you know, other disabled people in the UK, you know, be they young kids or they, you know, be they, you know, people who have never watched Paralympic Games who are retired, you know, seeing somebody that you can identify with, that you can relate to, you know, not just at a Paralympic Games on Channel 4—although that’s amazing, and that’s by far the biggest kind of moment that we have—but seeing them on your Insta stories or on your TikTok feed or on Twitter, you know, that’s the most powerful thing, is like, ‘I can see someone like me doing something that I didn’t think was possible for me’. I think that’s really the magic of the Paralympic Games.
Cat Anderson: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more, and that visibility piece is just so huge. And I think that you’ve obviously done a great job on that, because the ParalympicsGB has the largest social media following amongst international Paralympics social media accounts—outside of the International Paralympic Committee, of course—but to put it into context, the ParalympicsGB Twitter account has a quarter of a million followers, whereas—not to single out any particular account—but the US Paralympics Twitter account is less than a fifth of that at 41k. What do you attribute that engagement and audience to?
Kevin Crowe: So, yeah, we’re the largest Paralympic team on social. I mean, obviously I’d love to say, you know, I just— I’ve just done such a fantastic job.
Cat Anderson: [laughs]
Kevin Crowe: But there’s – there’s lots of reasons. And I think, you know, the Paralympic movement, where we are today, you know, is still really young. So having London 2012 in the UK, you know, having the opportunity for thousands of people to see the sport live and having Channel 4 as this amazing broadcaster that really changed the way that Paralympic sport was presented on TV. I think it was previous guys’, on other channels, it had been a bit of an afterthought tagged onto the Olympics. It was done in quite a straight kind of sporty way. And Channel 4 saw that there was this opportunity to do something totally different with Paralympic sport and to make it really stand apart from – from the Olympics.
In the UK, there was an ad campaign that they ran before the Games—which was just after the Olympics had finished in 2012—that said, ‘thanks for the warm-up’, and there was just pictures of Paralympians kind of looking sort of wicked, just looking really badass and kind of like this moodily lit— And it was just like, wow, okay, this is a whole new thing.
And there’s The Last Leg, which is a TV show in the UK on Channel 4, which is still running and is one of the biggest things on Channel 4 with, you know, disabled talent fronting it. And it’s a comedy program, and it’s got really sort of— It’s got its own take on talking about sport and about disability. And that sort of context in the UK is kind of where ParalympicsGB sort of lives.
So there’s a whole ecosystem around the ParalympicsGB Twitter account, for example, which means we can engage on Twitter with The Last Leg‘s Twitter account, for example. When The Last Leg is on, we can engage with all those sort of comedians who are part of that.
You know, the London 2012 Paralympics had Coldplay, you know, performing at the closing ceremony. It was a big moment, and we can have a – a relationship with Coldplay on – on Twitter where we— you know, Coldplay can engage with stuff we’re doing about that – those moments.
And it kind of built towards Rio and has continued to build, you know, during Tokyo. Sometimes it happens organically, sometimes it happens because we are reaching out to people, but I remember on the opening ceremony of Tokyo— And you’re kind of— You’re never really sure, ’cause there’s that big gap, and there was a really big gap, because Tokyo Games was postponed. You’re never really sure. Kind of, ‘Is the audience still there? Are they still going to be engaged? Are people going to watch it this time?’ Until it happens, you don’t really know. And on the first day, I think, I glanced back at Twitter, and Marcus Rashford—who, at that time, was right in the middle of his campaigning and, you know, really changing things for people in the UK—he was probably the, you know, the hottest property on Twitter, and he’d retweeted, like, everything we’d put out that morning, and he was engaging with athletes, and we were just like, ‘wow, this is incredible’. And I just think other nations don’t really have that, and it’s come from that.
You know, that ecosystem’s really great, so we can engage with other public figures—the interaction between other sporting figures, but in – in other industries too, like, you know, comedy is a really big – big one. So that enables us to have that growth on Twitter, and obviously we work on cross-promotion between our channels. The growth elsewhere, it’s taken a little bit longer, but we’re still, I think with the biggest Paralympic brand outside of the IPC on – on every channel.
And I think the Facebook audience was really there from London 2012 and continued to build. I think it’s a unique proposition in terms of the sort of global picture, Paralympic sport. And the way that we look at our accounts is that they exist in this ecosystem within and sort of outside of sport, which enables us to sort of talk to different audiences and to sort of reach more people.
Cat Anderson: It’s so interesting to hear that response, because now that you mention that ecosystem, it seems really obvious, but I hadn’t really thought about how all of those pieces fit together around societal visibility for people with disabilities. But you’re absolutely right. Like The Last Leg—you’ll have to forgive me; I can’t remember the names of the hosts—but for people who maybe aren’t familiar with it, I think it’s like there’s three regular hosts and two out of the three have a disability, but they regularly— Like, comedy, you mentioned, is a huge area, and there’s now, in Britain, there’s quite a lot— Like, there’s good visibility for comedians with disabilities, as well.
And then, as you’ve also mentioned, Channel 4 is an amazing partner, and I think they do a lot of amazing work on visibility for lots of marginalized groups. They’re very good at like pushing representation to the forefront. So that’s so interesting.
Whilst your work does centre around the Paralympics themselves, a large part, as we’ve mentioned, does involve advocacy and combating stereotypical narratives around Paralympian sports. I do think that something that we hear a lot is that Paralympians are often heralded by media as superheroes who’ve overcome their disabilities to participate in the Paralympic Games. The word ‘participate’ is often used in the place of ‘compete’ when describing Paralympians, as well, so there’s – there’s quite a lot of language around Paralympics and Paralympians that I think a lot of people are still learning about. And I think, more broadly, people are still learning to have conversations about disability correctly. How does the work that you’re doing on social media help with this, and how much of this is pertinent to the work that you do?
Kevin Crowe: So conversations around disabled people on social media, around disability as a subject, you know, they’re quite often around something negative. So they’re either about sort of challenges which people face or around policy and sort of government support and welfare and cuts and social justice and discrimination and sort of things that, you know, are, I guess, negative and not – not necessarily appealing.
So what sport does, it enables a space to have super positive conversations led by disabled people about their lives, doing something amazing, being themselves, being funny, being, you know— We just try not to talk about inspiration and inspirational people, because I think lots of athletes just really hate it, and I think it’s the sort of saccharine, kind of, almost, like, paternal sort of reaction that people have to the Paralympics that sometimes can just feel like not helpful to the conversation. You’ve got a real platform to talk about disability and have disabled people front and centre of – of conversations and that you just don’t have in other walks of life.
So I think that sort of crossover with – with comedy is really great, because what you don’t want to do is have really earnest, like, ‘We are talking about disability, and we are doing it in the correct way, and you must use the terms that we tell you are correct, otherwise you are cancelled.’ That is not the way to do it.
We need to have people feeling comfortable and interested in talking about the Paralympics and doing it with passion and authenticity. And so we have the language that we use and we sort of use the language of the social model of disability in the UK.
So we, we don’t talk about someone having a disability, and then that is their, you know, their medical condition, which is, you know, causing them to have less access to sort of society in terms of, you know, people have impairments and they are disabled by virtue of the fact that society is not built around their needs. Whereas society is built, you know, around someone who, for example, has the use of both their legs and they can walk up stairs, but you know, a wheelchair-user can’t access that pub because it wasn’t built with them in mind.
So the lack of a ramp is what’s disabling that person, not their actual physical condition. So we try and use the social model. We think it’s a really progressive way of talking about our bodies. But that being said, we have team of over 200 athletes for the summer games, for example. Not everyone’s going to agree that that’s how they want to talk about their own bodies, and not everyone’s going to think that – that that’s the right way of doing it, and that’s absolutely cool. People need to have ownership of that.
And, you know, we try and use our own tone of voice to align with kind of what Scope are doing, for example, what, you know, the disability community in the UK is sort of telling us when – when we reach out. So that’s really important. But I think the other thing that we can really do in that space is create Paralympians’ and ParalympicsGB’s sort of public image as equal to that of any other sort of sports star, of any other celebrity, something that really straightforward is, you know, we want all our athletes to have blue ticks on – on Instagram and – and Twitter, for example, and on TikTok, because that gives them that verification in the eyes of their followers. That gives them that level of public profile, creating a brand that feels premium.
So we work really hard on the ParalympicsGB brand to make it look and feel, you know, equal to sort of the Team GB Olympics side—to, you know, other sports brands—so that our athletes are seen as professional athletes, which they are. They are paid to do their job. They work, most of them, completely just on being an athlete, and you know, they are elite athletes in their field.
And so even just doing that is revolutionary because, you know— I think you talked about sort of using the term ‘participate’ rather than ‘compete’. Yeah. That’s absolutely one part of, sort of, the perception of the Paralympic games, but I think we’ve come really far, certainly the last 10 years. So, you know, we are coming up for the 10-year anniversary of London 2012, and I think athletes, you know, more than ever are seen as equal to their Olympic counterparts.
And, you know, the level of competition has just really, really sort of grown and grown. It’s clear to people that, you know, this is not a sports day for disabled people. This is elite professional athletes doing amazing things at the peak of their abilities. And if you don’t want to watch an athletics sort of event, or you don’t want to watch a game of wheelchair basketball, even just the knowledge that, okay, there’s a professional wheelchair basketball athlete who’s getting paid to do that job, who might have a – a commercial deal with a sports brand, who might feature in advertising on their TV or on social. That’s kind of revolutionary, ’cause that’s like, okay, you know, disabled people can do that too. And that’s awareness. That’s representation. And that’s how you change perceptions.
Cat Anderson: Now, here at Sprout Social, we know that social media is a wild and wonderful beast. It can surprise and delight, but it can also confuse and perplex even the hardiest of social media users. Who better to turn to for help than our social media expert, Stacey Wright, who’s here to answer your questions over a cup of tea and some biscuits in the part of the show we like to call ‘Signed Advice’.
Stacey Wright: Right. I’ve got my cup of tea, and I’ve got my letters, which can only mean it’s time for us to take a break and cosy down together. This is the part of the podcast where I, your social media agony aunt, Stacey, guide you, our dear listeners, through your trickiest digital dilemmas.
Right. Let me see what social media conundrums you’ve sent my way today.
‘Dear Stacey, we are a big pharma group focusing on healthcare innovation globally, but we’re trying to distribute localized content to different regions independently of each other before the development of a group-wide social media strategy. Our representatives in each market were able to create their own localized Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube accounts updating them as and when they individually saw appropriate. That means our business now has near to 130 profiles across 45 country managers. Working in the pharmaceutical industry means that we’re highly regulated, and so maintaining governance procedures over these countless channels is a logistical nightmare. Each of the territories is also very protective of their profiles. They are unwilling to merge or remove their presence in the spirit of one unified consistent group entity on social. How do I make sure that they each feel heard and have some autonomy for their region whilst also keeping risk and legal teams happy. From Matthias.’
So, Matthias, I see this all the time, where there’s multiple profiles for each and every country or having countless child pages on Facebook or lots of different showcases for each country on LinkedIn, and it just creates a world of confusion for the social media users, as well, as to which one do I follow.
When we’re talking about representatives in each country, I can’t avoid suggesting employee advocacy, uh, as a solution here. Instead of having multiple profiles on lots of different networks, create a roster of influencers from your own country managers, so encouraging them to be the face of the business for their region as thought leaders. This both creates a cadence for them resharing and amplifying your group-level content to their own networks.
We all know individuals and people-led accounts appear more authentic and therefore drive higher interactions than brand-level accounts. They own the content for their own region whilst also triggering a need to roll out some new training from yourself or guidance that will help with that compliance and branding issue.
You can return the favour by highlighting them on your global pages with profile pieces, so maybe short interviews or fact cards about them. And then you can localize that content to the relevant audiences on those platforms that offer targeting—by, say, language or location—for those individual posts.
If you have to keep a multitude of satellite accounts like you have now due to internal politics, I’ve been there. Create guidelines, roll out regular training sessions, and create social champion meet-ups within the team so you can create internal comms channels for them to highlight successes and inspire the wider team. Have assets that are designed on-brand but are flexible. Thinking about tools like Canva where you can create editable templates that maintain the look and feel but also the compliance you require.
I hope that this helps you explore a world of more possibilities for your global social teams, Matthias.
Until next time, listeners, stay strong, and stay social.
And now back to the interview.
Cat Anderson: I wonder about representation of all of the athletes. So how do you choose who you’re going to promote on your channel? Do you have a policy that all of the athletes are going to get equal amount of promotion? Or— Yeah. How do you manage that?
Kevin Crowe: For a summer games and you’ve got 220-odd athletes, you know, you’re never going to get sort of equal coverage of every single athlete, but what we definitely try and do is allow every athlete to have some visibility on our channel, covering their results in some way. We definitely try and give equal coverage across the sports, so— And with that, you know, that lends itself to giving equal coverage across the impairment groups, as well, as a national team.
You know, we’re always trying to reflect the nation, as well, so we are talking about trying to give equal representation across men and women, across ethnic diversity, across impairment type, across the nations as well—so obviously Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England—so we have to think about all of those things.
Within the team you’re always going to have athletes who are more up for doing stuff on social. And, you know, you’ve just got to run with that because they’re the ones who are going to be more engaging, and they’re the ones who are going to enjoy it. But it’s not always the ones that you think.
There are bigger sports that get more coverage, you know, outside of our channels. So, for example, athletics and swimming and cycling would sort of be the three that are a bit more sort of well-known, but that doesn’t mean that, you know, if you win a gold medal in swimming, that swimmer’s necessarily going to be the one getting the headlines or getting the most engagement on social.
You know, our boccia team, for example. You know, Adam Hills—who’s the presenter of The Last Leg—he calls the boccia team, like, the rock stars of the Paralympic games, ’cause, you know, quite a few of them are using power chairs and you know, David Smith—he’s, like, the sort of the leader of that team—he’s um, the most decorated sort of boccia player, and he’s got, like, blue and red spiky hair, and he, like, just sort of like shouts and cheers all the way through games, and he’s – they’re a character and, you know, he loves sort of being outspoken on social. And when he gets in front of the cameras, he’s like, fantastic.
So the audiences really pick up on that too. And, you know, they want to see the Paralympic games. A lot of people come to it and they’re like, ‘What? It’s— Okay, what is this?’ and ‘Is it the same as the Olympics but there’s disabled people doing it?’ And it’s like, ‘How can we show our audiences that, you know, our, our athletes are kind of distinct?’ And so when people are distinct and have that sort of great personality, we want to give them a platform to show it.
But yeah, it’s definitely something we think about, sort of trying to get that level of coverage kind of nice and even.
Cat Anderson: And I guess with sport, like, it’s part and parcel that there are going to be moments of triumph and then moments of disappointment, as well. But how do you cope with disappointment on your channel? Is that something that, you know, you don’t necessarily shine a spotlight on so much? Or is it something that you acknowledge as well?
Kevin Crowe: Yeah, totally. I mean, it’s part of sport, right? If it was just an undiminished stream of medals, I – I don’t think anyone would care. It’s part of it. And to be honest, and if somebody works in social, like, a moment of disappointment or heartbreak, those are the moments that can be more powerful for an audience. Because if you’re watching on TV, for example, and you can see someone is just, like—’cause maybe they fell in their race or something and they’re totally heartbroken and they’re lying there.
I’ve got an image from Tokyo in my head of an athlete, Kadeena Cox, and the rain was pouring down in Tokyo, and she was just lying, exhausted on the track. And at those moments, the audience want to reach through the TV and put their arm around that athlete and, you know, say, ‘It’s okay. We are proud of you for getting here.’ That’s the magic of sport, really. And social just lets you do that, doesn’t it, right? So you can go straight to that athlete and find them and do that.
And so having a great photo of that moment, or a quote, or, you know, if it’s a video or a bit of reaction or it’s them later on, back at the village, kind of reflecting on it, their followers, all they want to do is just be there and tell that athlete that it’s okay. Cause that’s that human response, isn’t it?
That, that emotional thing of, you know, the – the triumph, but also the disappointment in sport. So you can do that really simply, and you don’t need to write long copy about how, you know, they’ll be back and— You can let the images kind of do the talking and let the athletes sort of respond to the talking, but those moments, so they’re really important to cover, but they’re also just some of the more powerful sort of moments you can have, too. Especially because in the summer games, you know, a lot of medals are won, so there’s 19 sports, there’s 200-odd athletes.
So, you know, there’s light and shade, right? So there’s those moments of great joy, and the moments of sadness are really— They make it dramatic, I guess, and they help that narrative kind of flow, but also, you know, in disappointment, there’s usually a victory of some description, you know, whether it’s getting there, you know, the journey for Tokyo and they – they lived through a pandemic, and they were training on their own, and they couldn’t travel, and a lot of our athletes were sort of the people who were isolating much longer than everyone else, because they were on the vulnerable list or whatever it was being called at the time, getting there and kind of doing it. There’d be a victory there, or it might be a personal best, or it might be, you know, athletes are getting much better at just talking authentically about themselves and whether it’s their mental health or whether it’s a goal that they had.
You know, there’s a great video of Ellie Robinson, who’s a short stature swimmer, who gave this amazing speech by the side of the pool in Tokyo that went totally viral across Channel 4, about just owning the moment and just being super proud and what had taken to get her there. And she was, you know, in tears, but it was just this fantastic moment.
So those, you know, if someone wins their fifth gold medal, that is a great moment, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it won’t have that sort of connection that just a pure sort of raw human moment can have.
Cat Anderson: Yeah. Gosh, there really are the peaks and troughs of the human experience then. Like, in terms of the content that’s landing on your lap, we’ve got these enormous victories, and then, as you say, those moments of poignancy that probably— I mean, everyone can celebrate together, but I think everyone can commiserate together, as well, so it’s, like, wonderful content for social, but really powerful content generally for any human.
This is a big, fat question of: what is your favourite part of what you do?
Kevin Crowe: The games are just— They’re an emotional rollercoaster for every single person who’s involved. So we’ve just talked about the athlete experience, you know, that goes for the families of the athletes and the support teams, but you know, working on social, you know, you’re usually doing ridiculous hours for those, like, two weeks or whatever, that period, it’s like 20-hour days for the most part, and it’s – it’s exhausting.
So when something amazing happens, I mean, it’s fantastic. And during the games, I sort of manage the social accounts myself. So I’m doing most of the publishing and all the copy and everything myself. I mean, that is such a buzz.
I remember in Rio, we were following kind of the story of Will Bayley. He’s a table tennis player, and you might have seen— He was on Strictly Come Dancing, actually. It was it a couple of years ago now. But he— Yeah, in London, he – he hadn’t quite got there and he’d changed his classification—which is how the impairment groups are grouped together in the Paralympics to sort of enable competitions to take place—so he’d changed level of his classification. He was thinking he wasn’t going to be in the running, and then in Rio, he kind of had incredible, incredible games. Won the gold medal. He was up on the table, like sort of celebrating, which he got a yellow card for which I had no idea you could get in table tennis at Paralympic Games…
Cat Anderson: [laughs]
Kevin Crowe: …but he got – he got booked, and he was, like, screaming and jumping on his coach.
And I was in our little office in Rio, and I was just, like, crying my eyes out. I was like, ‘this is the best thing ever’, ’cause we just kind of followed his – his journey to that point, and it was fantastic. And the media were in the room sort of with us and yeah, the guy from one of the papers was going, ‘this is going to be front page news tomorrow’.
And it was like— Those moments are pretty special and that, you know, I don’t know where else they really exist. Whether you feel like it’s a real privilege to be the person to tell the world about it to a certain extent on your channel, but also just to see the response then on social. So just, you know, seeing people sharing it and commenting and – and liking it and it getting out there is so cool.
Cat Anderson: Are there any resources or social media accounts that you would recommend for listeners to refer to if they wanted to educate themselves on the portrayal of athletes with disabilities and disability awareness in general?
Kevin Crowe: So, I mean, there are— We’ve talked about Scope, and there are other organizations that are impairment-specific if you are sort of interested in certain types of impairment groups. So that’s all fine. But I would say you follow the athletes because the athletes are normal disabled people with an amazing job who, you know—
We’ve got lists on our Twitter, for example. You can go to our Twitter account and go to our lists. You can find all the Tokyo athletes, and you can find all the Beijing athletes. And I just say, you know, follow— If you’ve heard of a couple of athletes, give them a follow, because I think then you are in real conversations with real people, and you know, you’re seeing, kind of, you can interact with them yourselves, and you can see how – how they speak about themselves and how they present themselves, and that’s definitely the best way. Because no one wants to sit and read a list of rules about how to talk about something or— Because, you know, it’ll change, and you know, language changes and shifts, and sort of being connected to real people is the best way.
Cat Anderson: I have a feeling that you’re going to absolutely hate the final question, which is a question that we ask all of our guests on the pod. But if ParalympicsGB had to delete all of the accounts that it follows on Twitter leaving only one, which would it be? And I feel like you’ve given so many shout outs to so many accounts that choosing just one is going to be difficult. But what are your thoughts?
Kevin Crowe: Well, you can’t, I mean, you can’t pick an athlete, can you. That’s crazy.
Cat Anderson: No, probably not.
Kevin Crowe: There’s too many – too many great athletes. I mean, um, I would follow Rosie Jones. Rosie Jones is, uh, an amazing comedian. She is somebody who I don’t think cared about sport at all. So she’s someone who started off working on The Last Leg, actually. So— And, I think she was sort of part of the backroom team, and she was doing some writing, and she’s a brilliant stand-up.
And Channel 4 are really great at kind of working with talent and getting them involved in the Paralympic games when – when they come. So they really throw everything at it. And Rosie was part of the presenting team. So one of the things that they did for Beijing 2022—which is the winter games that just happened—was they had an all-disabled presenting team for the first time. So they are really great with being disabled-led, but also having disabled talent behind the camera.
Rosie was the roving reporter in Tokyo, and we would see her kind of at the venues cheering on her athletes. So she’s absolutely hilarious on Twitter and Instagram, particularly. She’s got this great running joke with Nish Kumar, another comedian. She just lies down next to him, gets someone to take a photo, and says, ‘This man keeps pushing over poor disabled, um, women. He needs to be stopped.’
Cat Anderson: [laughs]
Kevin Crowe: So they’re, they’re great friends, but it’s just a brilliant, brilliant running joke, which kind of encapsulates the— I guess the attitude around the Games that that’s really unique is that, you know, it’s disabled people talking about themselves and owning their own sort of narrative in a way that, you know, nondisabled people do all the time, but disabled people are quite often just put in a box and spoken about. And so Rosie’s a really great follow on – on social, and so, yeah, she’d be my choice.
Cat Anderson: I am so delighted that you said Rosie Jones, ’cause when we were talking earlier about comedy, she was front and centre in my mind. She is such a good follow on Twitter. Like, she’s so funny, and just generally I think she’s absolutely fantastic. So that’s possibly one of the best answers we’ve ever got. It’s a fair play.
Thank you so much, Kevin, it’s been such a joy to chat to you today, and I really appreciate you taking the time.
Kevin Crowe: Amazing. Thank you very much for having us.
Cat Anderson: You’ve been listening to Social Creatures with me, Cat Anderson. Many thanks to Kevin Crowe of ParalympicsGB for joining me today and of course to Sprout Social for making this podcast possible. Make sure you catch the rest of the series by subscribing on your favourite podcasting platform, where you can tune into a new episode every two weeks.
You can continue the conversation around today’s episode by getting in touch on our social media, @SproutSocial, or by sending your social media quandaries to our agony aunt, Stacey, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you in two weeks.
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