Campaign UK

FROM AD­VER­TIS­ING TO ACTIVISM

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Sport Eng­land wants to avoid the ‘dif­fi­cult sec­ond al­bum’ with the next wave of its ground­break­ing ‘This girl can’ ac­tiv­ity, which has mor­phed a cam­paign into a com­mu­nity. By Ni­cola Kemp “Once you get older, how you feel about your body changes. To put it sim­ply: you give fewer fucks” Kate Dale, cam­paign man­ager, Sport Eng­land

The 2015 “This girl can” cam­paign for Sport Eng­land, by FCB In­ferno, rev­o­lu­tionised sports mar­ket­ing for women. By show­ing women “sweat­ing like a pig, feel­ing like a fox”, the ac­tiv­ity tack­led the par­tic­i­pa­tion gap be­tween men and women in sport. It is es­ti­mated that 2.8 mil­lion woman who saw the cam­paign have taken part in sport as a re­sult.

Now, backed by an £8m bud­get, Sport Eng­land has widened its scope to tackle the “pinch points” that pre­vent women from get­ting ac­tive. With the suc­cess of the first cam­paign still fresh in peo­ple’s minds, avoid­ing the “dif­fi­cult sec­ond al­bum” was key for Sport Eng­land’s mar­ket­ing team. As Kate Dale, cam­paign man­ager for “This girl can” at the or­gan­i­sa­tion, ex­plains: “I would be ly­ing if I said we weren’t ner­vous. We were aware of the chal­lenge. How­ever, the ad­van­tage we had this time was the com­mu­nity.”

Trans­lat­ing a mar­ket­ing cam­paign into a com­mu­nity of ad­vo­cates is a tough goal for mar­keters, but Sport Eng­land has achieved it with aplomb. The “This girl can” com­mu­nity of 700,000 con­sumers have in­ter­acted with the brand on Face­book, Twit­ter and In­sta­gram. They help to pro­vide a live pool of sup­port and the thou­sands of tiny in­sights that have made the cam­paign so com­pelling. “One of the lovely things about the com­mu­nity is how sup­port­ive it is; for ex­am­ple, shar­ing tips on how to make swim­ming more in­ter­est­ing,” Dale says.

Lisa Parfitt, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at sports mar­ket­ing com­pany Syn­ergy, says so­cial me­dia has be­come an im­por­tant space for women’s sport, from stand­ing up to sex­ism to build­ing com­mu­ni­ties of shared in­ter­ests: “If you look at the so­cial re­ac­tion to ‘This girl can’, it has taken on a life of its own.”

It is this trans­la­tion from ad­ver­tis­ing to activism that is at the heart of cre­at­ing not just a mar­ket­ing mo­ment but a genre-de­fy­ing move­ment.

The new nor­mal

At a time when activism has be­come a huge sell­ing point, “This girl can” presents a blue­print for the power of ad­ver­tis­ing in gal­vanis­ing a range of con­sumers around an idea. “This cam­paign is about cre­at­ing a new nor­mal for women – we want to get to a stage where be­ing ac­tive is the norm for women,” Dale says. “These bar­ri­ers, such as fear of judg­ment, never go away but it is about giv­ing women the tools to con­stantly chal­lenge them.”

Al Young, chief cre­ative of­fi­cer at FCB In­ferno, says the com­mu­nity has had a “mas­sive im­pact” on the evo­lu­tion of the cam­paign. He ex­plains: “This work has to be about au­then­tic­ity. We lis­ten to sto­ries from the com­mu­nity and they in­form what we do in the ad­ver­tis­ing.” Ac­cord­ing to Young, this com­mu­nity is “co-cre­at­ing with us” be­cause, quite sim­ply, the agency “couldn’t make the ads with­out them”. Once again, the team took a grass­roots ap­proach and the cam­paign’s salience is as much about its street­cast­ing of di­verse, real women as it is about the strength of the in­sight.

Reach­ing the in­vis­i­ble women

One of the key strate­gies of the new cam­paign was iden­ti­fy­ing spe­cific life stages and bar­ri­ers that pre­vent women from be­com­ing ac­tive, with the ads fea­tur­ing a preg­nant woman, a new mother and a woman in her six­ties. The work makes a dis­tinc­tion be­tween “ex­er­cis­ing” – a joy­less “job to be done” – and “get­ting ac­tive”, which can be a joy­ful and po­ten­tially lifechang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. As Dale puts it: “One of the things we have al­ways tried to avoid is hav­ing a hec­tor­ing health mes­sage. We are re­ally fo­cused on re­fram­ing the con­ver­sa­tion around women and ex­er­cise. A lot of women talk about go­ing to the gym as if it were a pun­ish­ment. We want to bring to life women hav­ing fun be­ing ac­tive.”

High­light­ing the joy of be­ing ac­tive is core to con­nect­ing with a broader pool of women. “Women over 40 re­sponded re­ally well to the orig­i­nal cam­paign but, this time, we wanted to tackle the unique bar­ri­ers they face,” Dale says. Ac­cord­ing to Sport Eng­land’s re­search, women over 40 are not – as tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing would have you be­lieve – seek­ing to mask their age or re­live their youth. The study found that they have a strong sense of self, which ex­tends to how they feel about their body. “Once you get to that age, how you feel about your body changes,” Dale says. “To put it sim­ply: you give fewer fucks.”

A com­bi­na­tion of TV (once again di­rected by Kim Gehrig), out­door and so­cial ac­tiv­ity will give women a plat­form to talk about their ex­pe­ri­ence to kick-start broader con­ver­sa­tions. Ex­pec­ta­tions for the cam­paign may be high but, as Young says, the chal­lenge of a suc­cess­ful fol­low-up is a cre­ative’s great­est priv­i­lege. Backed by a vi­brant, en­gaged com­mu­nity and a clear ob­jec­tive, the new phase of “This girl can” is hit­ting the ground run­ning.

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