Team Athletics Conference closes with focus on DNA’s future
17 October 2022
Modernisation and athlete enthusiasm for European Athletics’ ground-breaking Dynamic New Athletics (DNA) competition format emerged as key themes in the final session of the online Teams Athletics Conference, which examined the development of all aspects of the DNA concept and the roadmap for wider implementation in the coming years.
For Day 2 of the conference, officially titled “The Sport’s New Offer” and co-hosted by European Athletics and the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation (RFEA), the programme blended video from international DNA events staged to date with live discussions featuring participants from those competitions and members of the DNA project team, including European Athletics vice presidents Cherry Alexander and Libor Varharnik.
It followed the previous day’s opening session presentation of a comprehensive case study of how the RFEA has adapted DNA and successfully implemented it at all levels of the sport in Spain, a two-year project called “Jungle Athletics” that was supported by a grant from the European Commission.
After a powerful video statement expressing the need for change and innovation in athletics, which was also shown on Day 1, the more than 90 participants heard in-depth analyses of how the creative but true-to-the-spirit-of-the-sport aspects of DNA, combined with relatively low-cost digital communications, add a new dimension that supports rather than threatens the sport’s classical competition format.
In most of the other featured videos, athletes, coaches and team leaders from both club and elite national teams expressed great enjoyment of their DNA experiences and eagerness to take part in future DNA events.
Of special interest was a live conversation with social media expert Mica Moore and digital marketer Mike Lawrence, who shared their insights of European Athletics’ communications strategy for DNA.
In addition to working as a social media content creator at various European Athletics competitions since 2019, Moore was selected to compete for her native Wales in last February’s inaugural DNA indoor showcase event in Glasgow, Scotland, giving her a unique, double perspective of the concept.
She explained that the team aspect of DNA and the more relaxed atmosphere of DNA events – including encouragement for athletes to share live social media content from the infield as the competition is in progress – were especially attractive for both participants and young media audiences.
Lawrence described how, despite a restricted budget, he and colleagues had been able to empower teams and athletes to promote themselves and the live-streams of DNA competitions, supporting them with messaging ideas and quality digital assets to share as content on their personal social media accounts.
He said the success of the efforts and the 2022 growth of online interest in DNA among younger age groups were such that the streaming audience for the DNA U20 Clubs event in September more than matched the figure for February’s high-powered DNA showcase in Glasgow, which featured senior stars representing six national teams, indicating that the sport has additional tools to grow interest among Generations Y and Z in the future.
In the open discussion period, which was meant to be a chance for members of the online audience to say how they want to see DNA develop, project leaders announced that a DNA exhibition match for six national U20 teams would be staged as the final test event for the 2023 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Istanbul.
Originally planned to take place before the 2021 European Indoor Championships in Torun but rescheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the competition is meant to be a chance for all Member Federation leaders present for the championships to witness a DNA match in person and judge for themselves.
It was also announced that following the success of this year’s DNA U20 Clubs event in Castellón, Spain, a second edition is planned for 2023 and that federations will be invited to submit applications to host the competition as further information becomes available.
The project team revealed that its report on the product development phase of the DNA project will be made to the European Athletics Council in November and that results of a survey of conference participants to be conducted in the coming weeks will be included in the report, giving survey respondents a further chance to have their say in shaping the future of the concept.
Following the report, the Council will decide how European Athletics will support the roll-out and further development of DNA in the future.
Watch the complete recording of the conference session here:
Team Athletics Conference – Day 1 report
14 October 2022
The Teams Athletics conference kicked off with a comprehensive case study of how European Athletics’ Dynamic New Athletics (DNA) concept has been adapted and implemented in Spain, a two-year project supported by a grant from the European Commission.
Officially titled “The Sport’s New Offer” and co-hosted by European Athletics and the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation (RFEA), the two-day online conference has been promoted as a chance for participants to help shape the roll-out of DNA at both the elite and grassroots levels.
After a powerful video statement expressing the need for innovation and modernisation in athletics, RFEA president Raul Chapado opened the programme with a discussion of why his federation’s project to adapt DNA for use on the national level, entitled “Jungle Athletics”, was as one of just five selected from more than 140 applications submitted in response to the Commission’s call for proposals to find new forms of traditional sports for grassroots participants.
Chapado, who also chairs the World Athletics Competition Commission, said that DNA is now an established element of Spain’s competition system and encouraged other countries to seriously consider integrating the format into their programmes.
Several RFEA staff members and event organisers, joined by European Athletics’ DNA Project Manager Marcel Wakim and supported by a number of animated and competition-action videos, detailed the delivery and impact of the project’s various elements and activities, including the creation of a Jungle Athletics smartphone application.
A key message repeated by several of the speakers was that DNA and its grassroots variations are not meant to replace the sport’s traditional athletics competition format but rather to sit alongside classical events and add a new dimension to athletics, using the team element to attract and retain young athletes.
Special guest Alina Shukh from Ukraine, the 2018 World Athletics U20 champion in the javelin and 2017 European Athletics U20 champion in the heptathlon, said she believed grassroots DNA competitions would be a very valuable tool for developing a western European-style club system when peace is restored after the current war in her country.
She added that since the Ukrainian team took home the gold medal from the first-ever DNA competition, held at the 2019 European Games in Minsk, Belarus, her country’s top athletes already have a great interest in and support for the format.
Day 1 of the conference wrapped up with a lively session in which a panel of Wakim, RFEA Competition & Events Director Luis Saladie and the RFEA’s Deputy Sport Director Josu Gomez fielded questions submitted by members of the online audience.
The second and concluding day of the conference will start today at 14:00 CET and focus on the road map for the future of the DNA project, including showcase competitions for elite athletes and the development of European championships for top club teams.
Watch the complete recording of the conference session here:
European Athletics hails DNA U20 Clubs media success as more than 150 sign up for “Team Athletics” conference
10 October 2022
With more than 150 participants already registered for the free of charge, online conference entitled “The Sport’s New Offer”, leaders of European Athletics’ Dynamic New Athletics (DNA) project have welcomed preliminary figures for social media activity related to last month’s European DNA U20 Clubs event in Castellón, Spain, as proof of the concept’s potential.
The head of the project steering group, European Athletics vice president and conference panellist Libor Varhanik, revealed that content related to the event was viewed over 1.3 million times through European Athletics and DNA social media channels during the two-week window of 14-28 September, and probably several hundred thousand more on other, untracked channels.
“Our communications team put a lot of effort into an innovative, low-cost strategy to promote the live stream of the event through the social media accounts of the clubs and the young athletes taking part in Castellón and we have been very pleasantly surprised with volume of interaction that has been created,” he said.
“It clearly shows that DNA offers ways to reach the families, friends and followers of club-level participants, which gives us valuable tools beyond our major events and the star power of elite athletes that we will need to grow the athletics community in the future.”
Digital marketer Mike Lawrence, who will also be a panellist in the conference, reported that the live stream from the Castellón event attracted over 32,000 views, more than matching the figure for February’s indoor DNA showcase event in Glasgow, Scotland, which featured elite senior athletes representing six national teams.
“After the positive experience in Glasgow, we set up DNA Instagram and TikTok accounts over the summer to appeal to Generation Y and Generation Z, the key targets for the DNA project – both as audience and participants,” he said.
“The numbers on growth, viewership and engagement have been really impressive, especially amongst the 13 to 24-year age groups. It demonstrates that bringing younger audiences to the sport is very doable with the right event format and the right use of social and digital.”
In addition to the communications aspects of the DNA project, next week’s conference, co-hosted by European Athletics and the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation (RFEA), will examine the motivation for creating DNA and how the new format can expand the existing competition structure of the sport by taking advantage of the under-utilised team dimension of our sport to attract and retain younger athletes and fans.
Day 1 will be devoted to a case study of how the RFEA introduced DNA to the elite, top club and school levels in the country through its EU-funded “Jungle Athletics” project while Day 2 will cover the international aspects of DNA and the roadmap for rolling out the concept across Europe in the future.
In addition to Varhanik, the various speaker panels will include European Athletics vice president Cherry Alexander and RFEA president Raul Chapado, both members of the DNA steering group, as well as various project team members, organisers who have helped to deliver DNA events, participating athletes and coaches, and social media influencers.
According to Chapado, a key aspect of the conference will be the audience questions submitted through the online platform.
“When we were in the early stages, people told us they were interested in DNA and expected European Athletics to take the lead. Now we have a fairly complete product, something that is more than just an idea. It has been tested at all levels and the feedback has been nothing but positive,” he explained.
“This conference will be a chance for everyone in the athletics community to learn more about what has been done, become part of our team and help guide us on what the next steps should be.”
The conference programme will comprise the following two sessions:
• Thursday 13 October (14:00-16:00 CET) – The Jungle Athletics Project & National DNA Programmes
• Friday 14 October (14:00-16:00 CET) – The DNA Project: Roadmap for the future
You are invited to shape the future of DNA
13 September 2022
European Athletics and the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation (RFEA) are inviting members of the athletics community in Europe to learn about the development of Dynamic New Athletics and discuss the best ways for the format to be rolled out in the coming years by taking part in an online conference on 13 and 14 October.
Entitled Team Athletics: The Sport’s New Offer and free of charge to all those who register in advance, the conference is aimed at athletes, coaches, club and school leaders and others interested in understanding the potential of DNA to bring added energy to all levels of the sport.
Thanking the RFEA for co-hosting, European Athletics vice president Libor Varhanik, who leads the DNA steering group, explained that the conference will be a unique opportunity to contribute views on how DNA and classical athletics can work in parallel to increase participation levels and appeal to younger, device-oriented audiences in the 21st century.
“We appreciate the support of many partners, like the European Olympic Committees, the European Commission, local organising committees and, of course, the RFEA, for our efforts over nearly five years to design and test various aspects of this innovative concept, which we are convinced can bring new value to all levels of the performance pyramid,” he said.
“Now is the time for those who really make our sport happen on a day-to-day basis to have their say and tell us what they want to see.”
RFEA president Raul Chapado, said his federation was proud to co-host conference as it reflects the major role it has played by creating a version of DNA for schools, a DNA smartphone app and co-hosting this week’s European DNA U20 Clubs event in Castellón as parts of the EU-funded Jungle Athletics project.
“From elite performers down to club level and school children, Spanish athletes and coaches really enjoy and get a lot out of DNA, so we think it is important to share the concept with the rest of Europe,” he said.
The conference programme will comprise the following two sessions:
- Thursday 13 October (14:00-16:00 CET) – The Jungle Athletics Project & National DNA Programmes
- Friday 14 October (14:00-16:00 CET) – The DNA Project: Roadmap for the future
In addition to members of the DNA project team, the line-up of speakers and panellists will include athletes, coaches, event organisers, app designers, broadcasters and social media influencers.