Fit, fun and forever young. I was all these things when, as Media Manager of the Sydney 2009 World Masters Games, I attracted 28,676 people to compete in the world’s largest multi-sport event in spite of almost zero traditional marketing expenditure.
With the World Masters Games making news this week – the International Masters Games Association awarded the 2025 edition to Taipei and New Taipei just a few days before postponing the 2021 event in Kansai – I thought I would reminisce about what I regard as my career highlight.
Margy Osmond, Chair of the Sydney 2009 World Masters Games, and the late, great Shane O’Leary, who knew more about masters sport than it was healthy to know, assigned me with only one key performance indicator: beat Melbourne.
Sydney versus Melbourne is one of the world’s fiercest city rivalries and, therefore, it was imperative to Osmond, O’Leary and everyone else in New South Wales backing the project, including Jodi McKay – then Minister for Tourism and now Leader of the Opposition – more people participated in the Sydney 2009 World Masters Games than the Melbourne 2002 World Masters Games. So just a smidgen of pressure.
The late 2000s threw more than their fair share of curveballs – the global financial crisis, the swine flu pandemic and the Black Saturday bushfires threatened to strike out the Sydney 2009 World Masters Games before the bottom of the ninth inning – and the local, national and international media landscape differed starkly from today.
But my comprehensive communications plan, which centred on strategic partnerships with ABC Local Radio, Channel Nine and Nationwide News, plus the provision of bespoke content to community media organisations around the globe, ensured Sydney hit 3,790 more home runs than Melbourne. People from 95 countries competed across 28 sports at 72 venues and the initiative delivered an economic benefit of $60.2 million.
“You’ve created a local news juggernaut,” said Lee Davelaar, who led Minister McKay’s media team, when the Sydney 2009 World Masters Games began. Everyone who worked on the still record-holding event had their favourite story and Davelaar could not get enough of Carl Hebel, the septuagenarian who walked 1,100 kilometres from his home in Gympie to the Games in Sydney. Pictured is Hebel, whom AAP photographer Dave Hunt snapped close to the NSW-Queensland border after a frustrating day searching for the eccentric athlete.
I would love you to visit my blog every day for its daily serve of fresh content. But I would love you more if you hired me. I am well-bred, by Racing Post out of WA Turf Club. I am well-rounded, a winner over many courses and distances. And I am well-placed, available to add value to your existing team. Do the form on a racing, wagering and communications thoroughbred at markworwood.com.