Energy and optimism may have been in short supply for many of us under lockdown, but with restrictions beginning to lift there’s a growing sense of excitement about a summer of reconnecting.
Certainly Michael Inpong thinks so. Even discussing the challenges of the past year, the strategy and marketing director at Müller Yogurt and Desserts peppers his chat with words like “stimulating” and “positive”.
One of life’s optimists, Inpong says he’s been given extra motivation by Müller’s partnership with British Athletics.
“We’re a strong match,” he explains. “All through last year they were always very supportive. The people we partner with really embody this happy, healthy way of looking at life.”
With the Olympics and Euro 2020 tournament now just weeks away, Inpong loves the idea of athletes and sport easing us back into everyday life, even more so with the prospect fans returning after a year of fake crowd noise in empty stadiums.
Sunday (23 May) sees the Müller Grand Prix at Gateshead, an international athletics showcase covered live by the BBC that’s a significant step towards the Tokyo Games in July.
Athletes have a voice and we respect that voice.
Michael Inpong, Müller
“The connection between the public and athletes is very strong and multi-faceted,” Inpong says. “It’s having that cycle of events back in place again, it brings back that sense of humanity. It’s a true sense of exciting normality, I would say.”
Since first partnering with British Athletics and Athletics Ireland in 2016, Müller has become increasingly involved in the sport, most visibly with its sponsorship of the domestic championship and events like the Grand Prix.
Away from the media spotlight, the company has been offering its support to individual athletes. The brand created power-track racing facilities for world record holder Hannah Cockroft and helped world champion heptathlete and Müllerlight brand ambassador, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, to launch a training academy for budding athletes from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“The athletes match our values,” explains Inpong, who recently became a trustee of the Women’s Sport Trust, set up to promote diversity and equality.
Much like with brands, consumers increasingly expect athletes to have a voice and a viewpoint on social issues. It’s a development both Inpong and Müller have been quick to embrace.
“Athletes have a voice and we respect that voice,” he says. “It’s important for them and we respect and support what they stand for. “Müller is a family-run business and diversity is at the heart of it.”
Prioritising female empowerment
This approach feeds into the most recent Müller campaign. Launched earlier this month, ‘Have It All’ is a celebration of the joys of indulgence and stars Johnson-Thompson and European middle-distance running champion Laura Muir.
“It’s about being whoever you want to be, that we have these needs and desires and we shouldn’t suppress them,” Inpong explains. “This idea that in life you can have it all, that’s at the heart of it. It’s playful and fun. You can make positive decisions about your food without the guilt.”
Back in the 1990s, supermodel Naomi Campbell was the face of a series of television ads for the brand’s Fruit Corner range. In more recent times it’s been singer Nicole Scherzinger.
Inpong insists that female empowerment has always been a big part of Müller’s campaigns and image. An ad due to be aired later this summer, for example, has been created with an all-female production crew and athletes like Johnson-Thompson have led inspirational sessions with staff.
“It feels very natural for us,” says Inpong. “It’s always been about having these role models and that includes the athletes as well. They’re amazing, inspiring people.”