How Tampere used international sports events to build civic pride
Hosting a major international event can be a huge benefit to your city – just look at the economic impact created by Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. However, if you want to use an event to create a longer-lasting legacy, you have to be strategic, from the events that you attract through to the way you utilise it in your place marketing.
Iina Ojala, Head of PR and Marketing for the City of Tampere in Finland and one of the 2023 City Nation Place Awards Judges, explores how they built on being named hosts of the 2022 IIHG Ice Hockey World Championship to build civic pride and engage the community in their place marketing and branding.
Thanks for joining us, Iina. Part of your storytelling in recent years is that Tampere is the ‘Home of Hockey’. Could you give a quick overview of what prompted this strategy?
Tampere is a city of sports, and ice hockey in particular. It may be a cliché, but it’s fair to say that ice hockey is in the DNA of this city. All the ‘firsts’ in ice hockey have first taken place in Tampere in Finland:the first match, the first outdoor rink, the first inside arena, the first World Championships - the list goes on.
When Tampere was granted the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, everyone knew instantly that hockey was coming home. That alone gave us a solid base to start building the ‘Home of Hockey’ narrative. Our aim was to organise the best World Championship of all time, but there was no way to do it without citizen engagement and the effort of the whole community. We wanted to create a positive vibe about the event for everyone and give all residents a chance to feel proud about our history and long tradition in ice hockey. However, as integral as the ‘Home of Hockey’ campaign was during 2022 and 2023 World Championships, it’s only one chapter of our wider storytelling as a city.
How did you encourage your citizens to adopt the ‘Home of Hockey’ positioning and become brand ambassadors for the city?
We were lucky to have fertile ground, as it was very easy for Tampere citizens to connect with the ‘Home of Hockey’ story. We didn’t need to sell it to the citizens, as there was nothing artificial. However, it was evident from the get-go that we wanted everyone to feel connected to this event. Thus, the cooperation with local businesses and communities was crucial in decorating the city with the ‘Home of Hockey’ visuals.
We produced free public events and created open public spaces for people to follow the tournament on screens. A family friendly activity zone was also opened to provide hockey-related activities for children. Citizens were encouraged to join the ‘Home of Hockey’ hype by creating social media content under campaign hashtags. This was speeded up by offering various “instagrammable” spots in the city centre by dressing famous statues in Finland’s hockey jerseys and placing caricatures of a well-known hockey players around the city. By granting nearly 7000 free tickets to underprivileged target groups, we managed to engage people who would have otherwise found it challenging to attend the games at the arena.
Do you have any advice for another city that is looking to leverage sport as a core pillar of their identity?
There are countless ways to succeed, but it definitely helps if the connection is authentic. One major factor driving our success has been our holistic approach to sports. Major sports events are an integral part of our strategy, city development, and economic policy. Thus, it’s not only about the events, but also about local wellbeing and development of the city, as well as our know-how, sense of belonging, and community among other things. This has paved the way for maintaining facilities and building new ones, which also brings new opportunities to local clubs and communities. Finally, I would also encourage that you build strong intersectoral cooperation inside the city organisation to engage everyone and harness all the know-how to guarantee success.
Congratulations on being recognised for your commitment to climate action. What role do place brand organisations have in paving the way towards a more climate-positive future?
Climate change is a global crisis, and most of the global consumption and use of energy takes place in cities. Therefore, it’s also the responsibility of cities to show the way to climate-friendly solutions. We must do all we can to enable sustainable ways of living, mobility, and energy usage.
Tampere aims to be climate neutral by 2030, and we need all residents, businesses, and communities to be involved. But it’s up to us to show the direction and bring everyone together. We also attract new residents by marketing higher quality of life via sustainable choices. It’s a combination of various aspects of urban life, including excellent public transportation, smooth everyday life, sustainably planned residential areas, and preserving surrounding nearby nature. The courage to try new things and make sustainable choices has also helped Tampere to attract new businesses and investments, and build pioneering ecosystems in energy-, bio- and circular economy.
I also saw that Tampere are looking to become a pioneer in the metaverse. What does that mean for the city? Are you looking to leverage this in your overall storytelling for the city?
It’s inevitable that it means change, or rather evolution. We approach it as an exciting opportunity. Tampere is the most desired city in Finland, and the favourite city of the Finns’. Ideally, us being one of the pioneers in building a smart and sustainable future will also foster international recognition and help us attract more international workforce, businesses, and investments. Metaverse will provide us a great basis for storytelling, but it’s more about continuity than a change in direction. We remain smart, sustainable, and experiential, and metaverse helps us to do all that.
Finally, what would you be looking to see in a winning entry at the City Nation Place Awards?
I would love to see entries that are authentic, distinctive, and courageous. Authentic in a way that genuinely springs from the history or identity of the place. Distinctive in a way that shows something truly original that positively stands out from the crowd. And courageous in a way that the entry is able and brave enough to provoke emotions. Of course, I’m also more than ready to see entries that go far beyond my initial idea of a potential winner!
Thanks for sharing that, Iina – looking forward to hearing your thoughts about the City Nation Place Awards entries when we begin shortlisting!