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Interview with Craig Spence, International Paralympic Committee Chief Marketing & Communications Officer.
Craig Spence: "my dream, achieve our IPC vision..."
Craig Spence, International Paralympic Committee Chief Marketing & Communications Officer.
Craig Spence, International Paralympic Committee Chief Marketing & Communications Officer.SiS

?First of all Craig, thanks for being with us and can you let us know a bit more about yourself?

CP- I was born in Leeds, Great Britain, completed a public relations (PR) degree in 2000 and held various PR roles before joining the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in September 2010 as communications senior manager. When I joined the IPC there were just 30 of us in the whole organisation and the communications team consisted of myself and just one other person.

I guess I joined the IPC at the perfect time, just before London 2012 as since then we’ve been on an upward trajectory. The IPC communications team is now 18 persons strong and in 2016 we won the European PR Team of the Year, something I am greatly proud of as it recognised the efforts of every single team member. That same year I also received the European Communicator of the Year award.

In my role as Chief Marketing and Communications Officer I oversee various areas including brand, media relations, crisis management, digital and engagement. Until a new IPC CEO is appointed, I am holding an interim position overseeing Paralympic Games delivery, commercial partnerships, broadcasting, protocol and hospitality.

I absolutely love every single minute of my job, I travel the world, am involved in some amazing sport events and meet some fantastic and hugely talented people.

Away from the IPC I am an independent director of the 2019 UCI Road Cycling World Championships that will take place this September in my home county of Yorkshire. I am also a huge football fan and hold a season ticket for one my local football teams Bayer Leverkusen.

SiS/AD: A bit about the IPC?

CP- The International Paralympic Committee is the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. Founded in 1989 we are responsible for the Paralympic Games, act as the international federation for 10 Para sports and empower our 200 plus members to enable Para athletes to achieve sporting excellence.

We are based in Bonn, Germany, and employ around 115 people from 30 countries. Our vision is to make for an inclusive society through Para sport – we organise great sport events which empower millions and change how people think about disability.

SiS/AD: IPC is entering a new era, what are its ambitions and strategy?

CP- We are just about to publish our new strategic plan - the first under our new President Andrew Parsons - which outlines our priorities for the next four years. These are:

Strengthen the Paralympic Movement at all levels

Enhance the Paralympic Games experience and further its reach as a celebration of human diversity

Drive a cultural shift through Para sport for a truly inclusive society

Continuous pursuit of excellence in what we do and how we do it

Develop and deliver a brand statement that globally positions our vision and mission

Ultimately, we want to achieve our vision to make for a more inclusive society through sport.

SiS/AD: As Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, what are your objectives?

CP: Make the Paralympics and all other Para sport events even bigger and better. Engage more people in the work of the Paralympic Movement, further understanding globally about how Para sport contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals, acts as a tool to changing the stigma around disability and drives social inclusion.

SiS/AD: Who are your main partners to reach these objectives?

CP- We cannot do this alone and we work with various stakeholders to reach these objectives, including our 200 plus members, broadcast partners, media and commercial partners. We also work with our strategic partners such as the IOC and United Nations, organisations who have similar objectives to ours. What’s most pleasing is that more and more people are wanting to get involved, helping us showcase our work to bigger audiences each day.

SiS/AD: What are you the most proud of in your past achievements?

CP- My proudest moment by far is the success of the Rio 2016 Paralympics, the result of an outstanding team effort against all the odds.

In the weeks prior to Rio 2016 we faced up to and handled the Russian doping crisis and dealt with the Rio 2016 Organising Committee effectively running out of budget.

Faced with this adversity, the whole Paralympic Movement came together and helped deliver sensational Paralympic Games in Rio – 2.5 million spectators, a record cumulative TV audience of 4.1 billion people and 1.8 billion reached via digital media. The sport was utterly sensational with athletes responding to the fantastic crowds with breath-taking performances.

We tackled the biggest crisis to ever hit the Paralympic Movement head-on and made a Paralympics, that some forecast would be a disaster, into a great success.

SiS/AD- London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games were quite a success, can you remind us key figures & legacy?

CP- London 2012 is widely regarded as the best Paralympic Games to date attracting 4,237 athletes from 164 countries. The Games were broadcast in 115 countries and watched by a cumulative audience of 3.8 billion people. More than 2.7 million tickets were sold for the Games – only the Olympics and FIFA World Cup sell more.

Helped by the outstanding performances of the athletes, sensational TV coverage from British broadcaster Channel 4 and unprecedented media coverage, the Games changed the attitudes of one in three people towards disability in Great Britain – the equivalent of 20 million people. The Games are still having an impact today on British society. Recent research found that there are now nearly one million more persons with disabilities in employment in the country compared to before London 2012, that is quite some legacy.

Rio 2016 is arguably the Games that did more for the Paralympic Movement than any other edition. We faced multiple challenges in the lead-up to Rio, the biggest being that the Organising Committee effectively ran out of money prior to the Paralympics.

After rallying a lot of support, raising funds and making multiple changes to the Games behind the scenes to save budget, the Games went ahead and were spectacular.

The Games were broadcast in 154 countries and watched by a record cumulative audience of 4.1 billion. We sold 2.5 million tickets and one of the stand-out features of the Games was the mind-blowing athletic performances. Buoyed on by the hugely passionate and vocal crowds, athletes broke hundreds of world records underlining to the world that Paralympic sport is high performance sport.

Ultimately, the Games showed that no matter where they are now organised, they will be a success.

SiS/AD: Tokyo 2020 is coming, what are your expectations? How can you set the bar higher?

CP- I think the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will surpass anything we have seen before. Since winning the Games, Tokyo 2020 leadership, commercial partners, politicians and the media have shown a real enthusiasm for the Games and a commitment to raise the bar following the successes of Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016. I think Tokyo has always been ahead of where London 2012 was at this stage and it is absolutely vital they sustain this passion and enthusiasm as we approach the final straight. Preparations are going very well, commercial partners are doing some great activations and NHK are initiating some superb projects. I am confident that the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics will be absolutely spectacular and will entertain billions around the world. They are going to be very special and quite possibly the best Games to date!

SiS/AD: After Tokyo, Paris is coming, can you let us know more about your plans for Paris?

CP- Our plan for Paris will be to build on the success and momentum generated by Tokyo 2020. The leadership of Paris 2024 understands the potential the Paralympics can have on society and it is important we work together with them and all other delivery partners to maximise that potential. What I am loving about Paris 2024 so far is their passion for innovation and their willingness to do things differently, as seen with the announcement of their mass participation events.

SiS / AD- If you had a dream for IPC, what would it be?

CP- To achieve our vision of an inclusive society for everyone on this planet, especially the world’s one billion persons with disabilities.

Vincent Gaillard, CEO at EPCR - European Professional Club Rugby.Google
Jeese Lovejoy at Beyond Innovation SummitBeyond Innovation Summit
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