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London Sport Consultancy uses digital marketing to reach and engage ‘less active’ people
London Sport Consultancy uses digital marketing to reach and engage ‘less active’ people

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Three things London Sport Consultancy learnt from running Facebook ad campaigns

Head of Digital Behaviour Change Chris Norfield first heard from partners promoting physical activity through Facebook Ads back in 2018; here he looks at the top three things he's learned since then.

It's been three years since places such as Redbridge, Wandle Valley and Hounslow first put some budget into running ads for their local classes. It resulted in lots of new sign ups for their sessions.

When London Sport spoke to our wider network about these kind of targeted digital marketing campaigns, there was lots of interest but a lack of capacity within teams to create and manage them.

This led us to running several projects where we would develop a Facebook Ad campaign and test how useful it was for promoting local activity opportunities. 

Our 2019 pilot involved promoting Walking for Health groups across London, Surrey and Hampshire and helped us show that digital marketing is nearly 15 times cheaper than traditional posters and leaflets.

Since then we’ve been working with partners including Sport England, Our Parks and Intelligent Health on developing and running targeted digital marketing campaigns through London Sport Consultancy.

Here are the top three things we’ve learnt from our experience running Facebook Ads.

Unlock the power of geo-targeting

One of the benefits of Facebook Ads is that you can choose the locations in which your ads are shown to users. You can select cities, counties, postcode areas or drop a pin on a map. 

In our Walking for Health campaigns we identified that we got the best results when we advertised to people who lived within 2km of the meeting point. (note: this was for London, rural areas' radius was larger).

For campaigns which don’t rely on venue-based activities (such as online programmes or apps) you can still use location targeting to focus your advertising spend on areas with high proportions of your audience.

Our targeted promotion of Couch to Fitness for Our Parks, for example, resulted in 46% of new users coming from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

However, it's important to avoid over-complicating your approach. We’ve seen better results when we try to keep our targeting reasonably broad. i.e. targeting all women aged 55+ rather than using specific interests.

Quickly test ad imagery and wording

In every campaign that we’ve run, we start from the basis that we simply don’t know what the perfect ad looks like. We identify several images, videos and variations on the wording that we think could work well. 

We can then run ads using different variations and see which versions people respond best to. One of the easiest ways to do this is start by running an ad with three different images. 

Once you’ve found an image that works best then try using that image with different wording in the ad. You learn what’s working best for your audience in real time and then put more budget behind the best performing ads.

Focus on creating a compelling and relevant offer

Most of our campaigns focus on reaching and engaging people who are currently ‘less active’. 

This means they aren’t likely to be actively searching for activities or inspiration about being active. We use Facebook Ads to proactively reach out to people and prompt them to consider an option for being active.

However, this makes it even more important to focus on promoting an opportunity that not only sparks their interest, but is a manageable first step. 

When promoting local activity classes – we find it works better to get people to register their interest in joining a local class than actually promoting the specific class time and venue. 

Creating an intermediary step makes it more likely they’ll actually respond to the ad, and gives the activity provider a way to contact the potential user and answer any questions.

To learn more about our work in Digital Behaviour Change contact Chris Norfield. For more information on what London Sport Consultancy can do for you, email our Business Development Manager Jennie Rivett.



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Anil Manji

Anil Manji

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London Sport aims to ensure Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity

About London Sport

London Sport aims to ensure more Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity. Supported by the Mayor of London and Sport England, our target is to get Londoners more physically active.

For more information on London Sport, visit

London Sport Media Centre
House of Sport, 190 Great Dover Street,
SE1 4YB London