Sport England’s CEO on strategic rigour and gender representation

Following Sport England winning the Glass Lion for Change at Cannes, Marketing Week caught up with chief executive officer Jennie Price on why traditional media is vital in creating a viral campaign, why winning awards will help them launch a New Year campaign and why diversity is key for the business.


Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign won a gold in the new Glass Lion: The Lion for Change award, introduced this year to recognise work that addresses issues of gender inequality or prejudice.

The award follows This Girl Can’s success at the Cannes Health Lions where the campaign was presented with the Grand Prix for Good award, which is one of only two Grand Prix For Good accoladesboth of which are presented by the United Nations and recognise campaigns that have a public service message.

For Price Sport England’s success is down to strategic rigour and the capabilities of its agency FCB Inferno. Marketing Week caught up with Price following the win.

What do you owe the success of ‘This Girl Can’ to?

It’s about starting with comprehensive insight and then staying true to it and being rigorous that the creative doesn’t deviate from it at all.

We had stacks of research about the issues we were trying to deal with and the barriers we were trying to overcome. When we went through the pitch process with the agencies we gave them a 600 page summary of all the research we had on women and girls and why they did or didn’t like sport.

What FCB Inferno did was pick up a thread that went across women of all ages, which was about the fear of judgement.

Which marketing channels do you think works best for this ‘behaviour change’ type of campaign?

You can’t have a campaign about opinion informing without a really strong digital media element because that is where people have the discussions. Although the digital element is important, it is usually stimulated by other parts of the campaign, like out-of-home or TV.

There is no doubt that the quality of the TV film kickstarted a huge amount of the debate and PR coverage. If we tried to do this solely using digital we would not have got the traction and the quantity of debate and engagement that we’ve had.

You have spoken about the importance of brands using agencies that have diverse teams, is this something you apply to your own team?

We are a publicly funded body so we are balanced. I have slightly more women than men in my senior team and we are almost exactly 50/50 in the staff as a whole, but if you look at who runs cricket, rugby and football it won’t surprise you to see there are lots of men there.

There is nothing wrong with that but there is an issue of seeing more women leaders. If women don’t see other women in positions of power for leadership they don’t think of aspiring to that level.

What’s next for ‘This Girl Can’?

We have to get special permission to spend money on advertising in this way. I have to ask for my next batch before we can go above-the-line again, which we would like to do in the New Year. I’m hoping that winning a Cannes Lion is going to help that conversation.

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