Autism Association of WA
Autism in Cricket
The Autism Association of WA supports people with Autism, with a major focus on providing opportunities for inclusion within mainstream sporting and other recreational and community activities. In this case, experience has shown that, due to its structured and predictable nature in on-field performance as well as off-field roles, cricket presents an ideal opportunity for the participation of children and adolescents with Autism who may find other sports more chaotic.
In partnership with the Western Australian Cricket Association, the Autism Association of WA received funding to establish a program aimed at breaking down some of the barriers to young people with autism joining their local cricket clubs. Experience had shown that, while some children and teenagers had been able to successfully participate, many families and clubs had struggled despite the best of intentions by everyone involved and needed more support.
In the inaugural year of the program, the objectives were to successfully launch Autism in Cricket by engaging the junior cricket club community within Western Australia and encouraging participation from clubs and families of young people with autism.
The key to achieving the objectives for this project was the insight that the gateway to success was building understanding and support for the program among the coaches and presidents of junior cricket clubs, engaging them with what the Association was trying to achieve. This was crucial in informing the communications strategy, which set out a program of activity most likely to capture the attention and active involvement of this highly influential group.
In a major coup for Autism in Cricket, Australian test cricket legend, Adam Gilchrist generously agreed to become the program ambassador and it was decided that the most effective approach was to offer coaches and club officials an exclusive invitation to a launch event with Adam as the MC. Through videos, on-stage interviews and personal testimonies, the event showcased how success can be achieved with those attending encouraged to sign up their clubs for the program.
Once sign-ups were achieved, the communications program switched to highlighting through social media, email and traditional media coverage the success that was being achieved. The target audience for this program of activity was families of children with autism, aiming to illustrate to them how historical barriers were being overcome and to lift their confidence in reaching out to their local club.
At the same time, this communications activity provided a rich opportunity to bolster brand awareness and the reputation of the Autism Association of WA as the champion of people with autism, as the organisation using highly innovative approaches to create wider understanding and acceptance for the people they exist to empower.
The success of the program’s first year saw it gain national recognition and gain further funding for expansion in future years. Most importantly, it gave families a chance to enjoy the benefits of being part of their local club and all the fun and satisfaction that comes from being involved in their community.
This project illustrates powerfully the benefits of first gathering insights and designing a communications program that is far more likely to achieve the best results. More than anything it shows how the JLCA “honey-pot” approach works – designing content specifically to attract the target audience and achieve clearly defined objectives.