Launching The Saudi Games
Creating and nurturing the next generation of athletes in Saudi Arabia at the inaugural Saudi Games
The inaugural Saudi Games marked a major milestone in Saudi Arabia’s investment in development, sports and quality of life, as outlined in The Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030 programme.
The 2-week sporting festival, featuring 6,000 amateur and professional athletes competing in 45 sports across 20 venues in Riyadh, was the biggest single-city sporting event in the Middle East and demonstrated Saudi Arabia’s capabilities to one day host the Olympic Games.
The Saudi Games were open to the public with preliminary qualifying and trials beginning in February 2022 ahead of the Games’ official commencement in November. Designed to provide valuable competitive experience for its up and coming professional and elite development phase athletes, the Games also aimed to encourage participation in sport at all levels with open access to trials and facilities across the country.
The SMG worked alongside CMO of the Saudi Olympic Committee, Karim Younes, to support the Saudi Games communication team in delivering these first ever national games by managing Saudi media, building the Games’ brand and its overall Communication strategy and managing crisis communications over the 11 days of events and sporting celebration.
Here, The SMG’s Regional Communications Director, Shawki Alameh, gives his insight into the challenge of delivering this moment of Saudi sporting history – with one eye on a bid for the 2034 Olympics.
What were the Saudi Games all about and what did they represent for The SMG?
The Saudi Games are the platform for everyone living in Saudi Arabia to showcase their talent. With 50 disciplines to choose from, the goal is to encourage the next generation of Saudis to embrace a more active lifestyle and, in some cases, take their first steps towards careers in sport. With huge prize money on offer and access to elite training facilities for the winners, it really represented a chance for the competitors to make their dreams come true.
We operate extensively in the region and have a strong relationship with a variety of sporting bodies in The Kingdom so it was important that The SMG played a major part in delivering this piece of sporting history.
How did the opportunity come about?
The SMG has nurtured a strong relationship with the Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) through our work across their motorsport properties.
So, after the huge success of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in 2021 and 2022 and the Dakar Rally, The SMG was invited to participate in the RFP for PR & Communications which eventually expanded into supporting the Saudi Games with their social media and digital content strategy.
What was your role in delivering the Games?
Once on board, The SMG played the role of the leading agency across all things related to key messaging and brand reputation. We quickly established a framework for all communications with the public as well as all media relations and written content distributed by The Saudi Games.
As a trusted service provider, The SMG also oversaw and quality controlled the Saudi Games’ social media agency of choice, taking the lead on video and photo content in both pre and in-event phases of the campaign.
Team SMG raring to go for the closing ceremony of the Saudi Games!
What were the immediate challenges you identified in delivering this historic brief?
This was the first Saudi Games in history. As familiar as we are with major sporting events like this one, there were still lots of unknowns and surprises for us on a daily basis! The main challenge, as it turned out during The Games, was keeping track of all the results; the Games’ scoring system and reporting from a sporting perspective was difficult but we found a way to ensure that the public remained up to date at all times.
Our team approached the challenge with two key thoughts:
- That we would treat the Games as if they were the Olympics
- As a result, deliver a service that befits the biggest sports event in Saudi history
We knew it would be a big challenge but one that we were very proud to take on and excel in.
Our goal was to ensure that the 23 federations responsible for the 50 sports as well as all governmental and non-governmental agencies were speaking the same language and delivering our key messages from day one.
What was the most satisfying part of the project for you?
The most satisfying for me was the feedback from the client. The OIympic Committee and HRH Princess Delayel made a point of congratulating us all by name and described us a team “beyond imagination.” Considering the complexity of the brief and the relative size of our team, that was truly special feedback to receive.
The results were the fruit of a fantastic working relationship; HRH operated an open-door policy and ensured that we had everything we needed to deliver this historic event and do it justice. The results, ultimately, spoke for themselves.
The takeway for us as a team was that anything is possible!