It is accepted that the pace of our judo lives is fast, sometimes very fast, with the need to publish written and social media content at rocketing speed. There can be a lack of connection or a lack of transfer of knowledge between media outlets, as each member of the community communicates, in the majority, with its own specific audience. This is not wrong or unexpected but can we do even better? In short, yes!

On 31st January 2023 the IJF invited media representatives from national federations of the five continents to come together online for a meeting in a whole new style. More than 80 participants accepted the invitation and with IJF Director General Vlad Marinescu at the helm, at 1pm CET the introductions began.

There were representatives from: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Czechia, France, Gabon, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Latvia, Madagascar, Moldova, Morocco, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Uganda, Ukraine, USA, Uzbekistan.

Vlad gave an inspiring welcome leading the group into a presentation about how we manage and promote our judo heroes. “Building, with all the federations, the stars and heroes of the World Judo Tour, especially those who magnify the values of judo, encourages greater participation from the youth, in order to help humanity participate in the creation of a better world.”

This is always the long term goal, as Jigoro Kano first taught us. It is about society and education through the vehicle of sport and to do that to the right level means even further work must be done to publicise and celebrate our heroes.

Vlad Marinescu continued, “Judo for Peace and Judo for Children are pillars of our work. Unless we are all united in the promotion of judo we will not grow at the speed we can. To have this group of media representatives here together, those who promote and publicise the best activities and personalities of judo, along with some of our IJF commission members, is key to attracting more people to this education system.”

Ruben Houkes, Director of the Judo for Children Commission and a world champion in his own right, then presented to the group, speaking about his heroes.

Ruben Houkes inspiring children in the Netherlands

“It’s an honour being here and sharing our work with you. I’ve been doing judo all of my life. I wasn’t born when the 1964 Games happened but Anton Geesink was always my hero. He was not only one of the biggest champions, shown in photos winning against Kiminaga for his Olympic title but he was a man of great character. There was one photo in particular which has always stayed with me, of the moment he won. His teammates and staff were about to enter the tatami in their excitement but Geesink raised his hand and that photo shows him stopping them from coming on to the tatami, respecting the values of judo. We should embrace this as a whole judo family."

"Another of my heroes is David Ogilvy, perhaps less well know within our community, but a hero of marketing and communication, often referred to as ‘the father of advertising.’ He inspired me to promote our sport in a beautiful way, just like he would have, as a great ad’ man.

‘If you want to be interesting, be interesting,’ said Ogilvy and we must make sure we, as judo, stay interesting. He also said, ‘Tell the truth but make the truth fascinating.’ His simple ideas resonate with a lot of people.

Judo for Children is all about marketing, understanding and hooking the market, understanding growth, research, branding, scope of influence. In the Netherlands we position judo as a methodology and not just a sport. Sure, we do it on the tatami but we want to be relevant beyond that and even into the classroom. We attract media attention and really use my background as a champion to get the first interest.

We always understood we were competing with other sports in our country for attention and needed to gain a different position and so we went with the social and emotional education of children and then collaborated with Disney to leverage the values of judo in the classroom. Now we have 55 national federations working this way in schools via our ideas and methodologies."

"We are now also collaborating with Microsoft Minecraft to involve judo and get them in contact with our values to present this sport and have already logged more than 2.2 million unique downloads.”

Ruben’s presentation really hit home and gave the attendees a lot to think about, especially with such huge business names as Disney and Microsoft becoming involved. This really shows what can be done with the right, focussed strategies.

Next followed a presentation from Lara Monsores, CBJ Communication Manager, on the use of social media, “I’ve been here since an internship in 2014 but have been the communications manager since 2018. I wish to contribute our presentation on how we use social media to promote our sport because judo is in the top 5 Olympic sports in Brazil in terms of digital presence."

Part of the CBJ media strategy is inclusion

"There are many topics which could be discussed but creating relevant and original content is really important. We don’t have all the answers but our audience does. We must ask them what they like, what they want to see. When they answer, we see how broad the scope is, from interviews, to behind-the-scenes, to great ippon judo. Fans want to see many things but positive posts are key.”

Vlad commented, “Behind-the-scenes footage shows who the athletes really are and shows that the values are not just on the surface, they are real and honest and present even off the tatami.”

A further presentation from the Uzbekistan Judo Federation showed what is possible in terms of media relations with athletes. Rustam Sodikov said, “We created a database of our content and we are very open about how we promote judo. We co-operate with Uzbekistan TV. As a result of our TV coverage we have seen an increase in the number of judoka in our country."

"After every event we organise a press conference and publicise our team’s achievements. We also use press conferences to review the work of the whole federation.

We now advertise judo on the huge digital advertising boards all around the city of Tashkent, even within our pubic transport system. All departments of the federation are active online. More than 100 mass media influencers were involved in the promotion of the 2022 Tashkent World Championships.”

Vlad responded, “Congratulations for helping the whole country have access to judo, way beyond just the judo community. Selling it to children who want to be just like their judo heroes is so beneficial.”

There was then an exciting study presented on hero management within Georgian judo, “People here use all platforms to watch their heroes. Judo is very popular in Georgia. Frescos from 11th century show people wrestling. The people love these kinds of grappling sports and feel it is in their DNA.

We are also aware that there is the ‘secret of 70 seconds.’ This is the best duration for videos. We promoted one story about Lasha Shavdatuashvili which has grown to 600,000 organic views. It’s 70 seconds too."

"With the engagement from the public, we then show a lot from our heroes outside the tatami. We feature videos about our judo stars. One about Lasha Bekauri, showing a lot of personal information, reached 1 million views on TikTok. On FaceBook we have more than 400,000 people engaged in judo content. TikTok seems to be a real breakthrough in social media and with good content we can get millions of views and with the public creating content for us too.”

Moving forward from Georgia’s contribution, the IJF Media Director Nicolas Messner delivered next, “You all know the IJF platforms and website. Don’t hesitate to visit our platforms on a daily basis to see our updates. We are convinced that the better the visibility of our sport the more increase there is in the number of judoka. If we work together we will have more people coming and will really play to our fan base. Visibility = content combined with stories."

"We report internationally but as an international federation we also promote activity locally and want to keep doing that a lot. Judo fans, general public, media, sponsors and institutions should all be spoken to with our content. When more people watch, more practise, more talk and promote and so it goes on.

We want to show and use emotion. Together we are stronger and we want to double our engagement and our number of judoka by 2030.”

Vlad Marinescu concluded the online event, “Thank you from us all and from Mr Vizer, for uniting the judo media team. We know the WJT only touches certain stories and to have the depth of knowledge of your country’s heroes we need you to keep doing your great work. It’s our job as a collective to share content. We share yours and give you international exposure and you give us the local knowledge and special information from behind the local scenes. The content in each country that is successful can be shared and transferred to other contexts but the values always join us.

Languages link people and so let’s create channels for those with common languages and backgrounds. Of course our main common language is that of judo. Step by step the athletes are role models for the future and together with you we can make them even bigger role models and give our athletes, our education system and sport greater visibility to the whole world.

See the full video of the seminar here:

See also