As I’m sure is the case for all sports federations, 2020 has not evolved quite as the International Federation of Teqball (FITEQ) was expecting back in January.
Off the back of a record-breaking year, in which we welcomed 58 countries and 160 athletes to our biggest-ever Teqball World Championships, the stage was set for 2020 to be FITEQ’s most successful to date.
Yet in a year that has seen the Olympic Games postponed for the first time in its history, and professional sport moved to behind closed doors, FITEQ has managed to maintain impressive growth of teqball all over the world.
It was only last month that FITEQ was able to sanction its first international teqball competition since the start of global lockdown in March. It had been a long and gruelling five months, but it reminded everyone in the teqball family that innovation is essential if we are to continue our trajectory as the world’s fastest-growing sport.
At the heart of teqball’s rise has been our engagement with fans on digital platforms. With nearly 3 million followers on Facebook and over 600,000 on Instagram, teqball has built a passionate and rapidly increasing online audience. A recent comparison to other sports highlighted that teqball has the third-highest number of followers on Facebook and the fifth-highest on Instagram. On the latter channel, teqball receives the most views and most interactions per post, whilst on Facebook, we have the most total views, after recently exceeding 400 million.
This digital growth has been a key contributor to the sustained development of teqball in recent years, which has resulted in the establishment of 73 National Federations and over 1,200 clubs across all five continents. FITEQ was determined to build on this momentum and not to let the pandemic be a roadblock for the progression of our sport.
FITEQ’s strategy of using engaging content of world-famous footballers, celebrities and teqball fans to build awareness of the sport has never been more relevant than it was during lockdown, when it became increasingly difficult for people all over the world to practice sport.
At the start of lockdown, we immediately identified harnessing our digital audience as the key to this continued growth and a great way to inspire people to be active during a very difficult time. We launched a series of campaigns and activities that have proven successful in this endeavour, and as the world slowly emerges from lockdown, the teqball family is in a stronger position than it was back in March.
The #StayTeqChallenge was our first major digital campaign after the start of lockdown, which saw FITEQ call on the teqball family to share their original ways of practising the sport in the challenging environment we all faced. To supplement this, we used teqball’s increasing popularity with star footballers like David Beckham, Neymar, Sadio Mane, Wayne Rooney and many more, to build awareness of the sport. These ambassadors have been a core part of the teqball journey from the outset, and to see them using teqball as a training tool during lockdown was the perfect content for engaging with existing and new fans all over the world.
FITEQ also recognised that accessibility to Teq tables was a hurdle for many fans during lockdown and whilst the number of table purchases in this period has been significant, we wanted to provide a digital alternative for those who were unable to play regularly. We were determined to embrace International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach’s message to the Olympic Movement in his "Olympism and Corona" letter, where he called on all rights holders to urgently explore esports opportunities. The global launch of SQILLER has proven to be an excellent solution, with thousands of fans downloading FITEQ’s active esport app that helps individuals practice their teqball skills with just an iPhone and a football.
On top of these activities, FITEQ has been providing daily content on all of our social channels to keep fans entertained, from sharing clips of football clubs playing teqball in training, to Teqball World Championships highlights and compilations of the best rallies from competitions in recent years. This digital content strategy will continue to be imperative for FITEQ as international competitions begin to resume and we look forward to teqball being a part of major multi-sport events like the Asian Beach Games in Sanya next year.
Looking ahead, to support our ongoing development, FITEQ has recently signed a cooperation agreement with the Olympic Channel, which will help bring teqball to new audiences across the globe. The investment in the Olympic Channel reflects the IOC’s recognition of the importance of digital engagement and partnering with them will help us capitalise on the increasing appetite for teqball content.
As we reflect on 2020 so far, it is true that it certainly has not evolved as we were expecting. It is also true that the pandemic has been the most challenging period in FITEQ’s history. However, the experience of lockdown has been extremely valuable for the teqball family in reinforcing the critical importance of a strong digital strategy in growing a global fan base and inspiring people to use sport to stay positive during the most challenging of times.