The FA tackles ‘old-fashioned stereotypes’ around who can play football

The Football Association has announced a new brand purpose ‘For All’, alongside a campaign highlighting the FA’s work with women and people with disabilities.

The Football Association (FA) is increasing its focus on women through its marketing activity as it admits there are still “old-fashioned stereotypes” to tackle.

The company unveiled its new brand purpose ‘For All’ yesterday (13 March), alongside two short films and a series of case studies created by VCCP to build greater awareness of The FA’s role.

The first film stars England Lioness defender, Casey Stoney. It documents her journey from being the only girl in her youth team to achieving 129 caps for her country. The second film centres on the story of James Blackwell, who is on the England Cerebral Palsy team.

The brand’s digital engagement director Russell James says the brand never previously articulated what the brand stood for, and hopes its new purpose will become a “positive force” for change.

“We wanted to create a brand purpose to show what the FA actually does, and so that people view [us] as a positive force, which gets more people involved in the sport,” he tells Marketing Week.

Research tells us that there are still pretty old-fashioned stereotypes around women’s sport in general and women’s football suffers from that at times.

Russell James, FA

Alongside the new brand purpose, the FA has also released a new strategy for the women’s football division, and has set itself three ambitious goals for the women’s and girls’ game by 2020. It wants to double participation, double the fanbase and achieve “consistent” global success.

In order to achieve this, James admits there are some challenges to overcome around women playing football – but claims there has been a “big shift” in the last five years.

“Research tells us that there are still pretty old-fashioned stereotypes around women’s sport in general and women’s football suffers from that at times. We’ve seen a big shift in last five years, from the London 2012 Olympics when the women’s team did really well to the England Lionesses winning bronze in the 2015 World Cup,” he says.

“We know things are changing, and we want things to change faster. The more we can showcase inspirational people like Casey, the more girls can get into the game. Those stereotypes come from somewhere, so we have to make it as ‘normal’ as possible.”

When asked whether the FA was not as inclusive as it should have been in the past and if the campaign looks to break this cycle, James denies this.

“The FA does a lot to promote and support football; it has invested £125m in grassroots games, and encouraged people from different backgrounds. We’ve been inclusive, this [campaign] is more about us using the power of these films to demonstrate how accessible it is,” he explains.

The brand recently announced it is looking to reform the way the company is run after criticism from five ex-FA bosses. In December, they asked the government to intervene as the organisation was being held back by “elderly white men”. Only one woman currently sits on the 12-member FA board, but the FA is now looking to increase that to three by 2018.

“We’ve been quite public about the changes we’re working on to meet the governance reforms that Sport England has filled out. It’s an ongoing process, I suppose, and this [activity] we’re doing now is really a much broader brand campaign,” James adds.