Getting to know you better; in search of the core market

31st March 2017

Getting to know you better; in search of the core market

by Sam Jamieson, Core Market Officer

Over the past few months, as Volleyball England (VE) has restructured itself, much has been talked about the “core market”. But who makes up this core market that Sport England is keen for VE to engage with and support?

For me, the simple answer is that the core market is made up of anyone involved in organised, competitive volleyball. These people could be players, officials, coaches or volunteers. They might be operating in a formal club environment but could just as easily sit outside a club structure – in a school or a youth organisation for example.

They could be participating within an officially sanctioned VE environment or even outside (more of that later). And they will represent the whole range of playing standards from novice to elite and from junior to senior.

What the core market will not include are those people who may only be playing occasional recreational volleyball; people over whom we have negligible influence.

Even with those people removed from our considerations, what we are left with is a very broad demographic to appeal to as our core market.

Supporting such a large and diverse market will clearly be a challenge. We’ll need to listen really closely to that core market – you, the people on the ground who make our sport happen – to establish where you most need our help and support. We’ll take our lead from you, rather than expecting you to follow our lead. This is far more sensible than VE trying to take control of numerous initiatives across such a broad target audience. 

Some of the areas where we need to collaborate more closely are already evident. That’s why, in the new role of Core Market Officer, I’ll be working with the Core Market sub-group, headed by VE Board Director Liz Clarke, to look at the development pathways for players, coaches and officials. This will lead to the creation of a volunteer strategy through which we can better support the core market. I imagine we’ll also be required to look at club development tool kits and junior competitions as I sense that both of these areas are close to the core market’s heart.

On my personal ‘to do’ list, I also have the issue of how we can get a better handle on our customer data; something which will help us to be more efficient and commercially savvy as an organisation.

The data point is important if we are to really understand our core market. Previously, we had a good picture of the people involved with the sport at its highest levels of performance. Now, we need to extend our understanding far further across the entire volleyballing community.

This will include reaching out to people outside of the current VE ‘umbrella’. This may prove tricky as some of these are people who have made a conscious decision to operate apart from VE. Others might not even know who we are. However, they are still playing and promoting our sport. We need to at least be trying to have a conversation with these people, clubs, organisations and associations to understand their motivations and to offer what support we can.

In terms of how we engage with the core market, our regional associations will be critically important. I anticipate that people may therefore point to the recent removal of the Investment Zones and Volleyball Relationship Managers as a backward step in this regard. Sadly, that structure simply could not be maintained any longer. However, it left us with some excellent networks and plenty of experience of how best to operate at a regional level. That knowledge will not be wasted.

There’s no denying the fact that our core market is now very large and has many different priorities which it will want to address. But it will be the centre of our attention. Supporting that core market and helping it achieve its ambitions, whatever they may be, is what matters now.

If you want to get involved with helping to shape our core market strategy, please get in touch at


Getting to know you better; in search of the core market