Why our research can help you to engage BAME communities in your physical activity provision

Shaheen Bi, Head of Research and Projects at Sporting Equals – the organisation which exists to actively promote greater involvement in sport and physical activity by disadvantaged communities – explains how the new insight series can empower sport and recreation bodies.

Approaches to diversity should start from the very top and filter down the supply chain to ensure greater inclusion and equal opportunity for all sections of society. Sport England‘s strategy, Towards an Active Nation, poses some considerable challenges to the sector and in particular National Governing Bodies (NGBs) in making sure that they engage an increasingly diverse society and customer base to help address social exclusion and tap into new audiences.

The latest Census figures from 2011 revealed that the BAME population in England and Wales was around 10.9m (20%) (including White Other) and research estimated that in 2016, the ethnic minority population would increase to 12.1m making up 21% of the overall population.[1] As our population continues to diversify the sport and recreation sector must change its approach and be able to strike a chord with increasingly diverse communities.

One way to do this is through more effective leadership so we have started an insight series into Black Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) consumer segments. This offers valuable information about demographic profiles, interests and behaviours, in order to allow the sport and physical activity sector to better understand these audiences. With a better understanding, it is hoped that these insights into BAME markets will help NGBs, Local Authorities, grassroots sports and recreation clubs, as well as commercial leisure providers, to better engage with BAME audiences.

Many BAME communities face disadvantage and social exclusion due to these sport and physical activity providers not recognising the barriers and behaviour influences which impede their participation in sport. Often BAME identities are influenced by a wide range of interlinking factors that determine individual behaviour. For example, our latest insight into Black African Caribbean males (16-24) suggests that factors such as socio-economic status, education and awareness allow many to become distrustful of organisations and structured programmes. 

Sporting Equals Insight, Young Black, African and Caribbean Males  (Sporting Equals)

In light of an increasingly diversified population, distinctions need to be made so that factors, such as social structures and gender (which may all have a direct influence and impact on a participant’s behaviour and how people engage with sport), are considered. For the first time, our new insight series allows us to build a profile of the BAME market allowing sport and physical activity providers to understand these markets at a macro level.

The future challenge for sector is to make sure that providers of sport not only know their target market but understand it so the audience is clearly reflected in recruitment strategies, branding and image. The sector needs to work in partnership and with a concerted effort in order to better understand how to engage BAME audiences and address the barriers that they face to make sure that everyone is able to benefit from leading an active and healthy lifestyle.

Now more than ever, we need to understand more about these underrepresented audiences rather than using a ‘one size fits all’ approach in order to make sure that everyone is engaged in sport and recreation.  Along with our insight series, have also developed a faith centre model and we hope that our insights into these audiences will be a useful tool for the sector as our reason behind them is linked to the mission to get the inactive active. 

This latest insight is available through our wider training offer which enables organisations to bring to life practical examples of engagement with these audiences. Further information is available by emailing info@sportingequals.org.uk;

Join the membership section of our insight portal http://www.sportingequals.org.uk/extranet/ 


[1] The future ageing of ethnic minority population of England and Wales, Nat Lieveley, Centre for Policy & Ageing, Runnymede Trust, July 2010