?The Greater Game: Sport, War and Peace? is an exhibition at Imperial War Museum North (running until November 1) that looks at how sport can bring sides together, writes Emma Parsons.
The Museum uses people?s stories to explain the relevance of war and conflict in all of our lives and uses the strapline ?War Shapes Lives?. The story is told using collection objects, sound archive, photography, reminiscence, art, poetry, drama, music ? all responses to war. The exhibition looks at the background to some of today?s most enduring sporting tensions, from England vs Germany football matches, to Cuban and American baseball rivalries; from the ?Soccer War? between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969 to the Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer chess matches played at the height of the Cold War. The exhibition also focuses on its own Sporting XI ? footballers, cricketers, jockeys and rugby players from Britain and the Commonwealth who went on to fight for their country in the First and Second World Wars.
The popular themes of the exhibition provide a great opportunity to target new audiences for the Museum ? sports fans and participants as well as families. Partnerships with key organisations have resulted in a direct-mail campaign of 120,000 names working with Manchester United FC, Manchester City FC, Lancashire County Cricket Club, Salford Reds Rugby Club and the World Triathlon Championships in Salford. The campaign has produced a set of cigarette-card-style mailers, each telling the story of an individual sportsperson like German footballer Bert Trautmann who fought in the Second World War and was a prisoner of war in Britain before playing for Manchester City and becoming a Mancunian hero in the 1950s.
The Museum appointed an agency that specialises in sports PR. Its brief was to secure coverage in the sports and news pages of national print and broadcast media, while the Museum?s in-house team concentrated on local and regional news and features.
A dedicated exhibition website went live two months prior to the exhibition opening, and our partnerships mean that we will get traffic directed to this via each partner?s website and regular e-newsletters to their supporters. We are also running a sports competition with over 20,000 Guardian readers who subscribe to their sports e-bulletins. All of this partnership work is generating over 180,000 potential visitors who live within our target area. Each of them is receiving a mailing about the sport that they are interested in ? be it football, cricket, athletics, rugby or horse-racing ? and in a cigarette-card format that makes it eminently collectable. We are even putting the cards on to e-bay for a nominal fee to generate word of mouth amongst the collectors out there!
The important point is that all of these leads are being generated at purely the cost of the print and, in some cases, the postage. By thinking beyond the usual museum and arts sectors we have generated interest on a mass scale. The number of stories within the show ? and the summer of sport that is upon us ? means that we hope to latch on to the huge interest and the pester power of children and sports fans alike.