Top marketers from the likes of Sainsbury’s, Disney and Facebook are joining forces with elite female athletes to help amplify the achievements of women’s sport.
The ‘Unlocked’ initiative, pioneered by the Women’s Sport Trust (WST), is a five-month campaign pairing 40 of Britain’s most successful elite female athletes with 40 ‘activators’ including leaders from marketing, sport and media.
Marketers involved in the project include head of marketing strategy and customer experience at Sainsbury’s Argos, Emma Bolton-King; Disney vice-president of marketing and communications Joss Hasting; and Anna Chanduvi, sport partnerships EMEA at Facebook. They are joined by Xeim (which owns Marketing Week) managing director Richard Robinson and head of consultancy at Xeim and Oystercatchers, Helen Gorman.
The idea is to use the initiative as a springboard to create an “unprecedented critical mass of noise and energy” to propel women’s sport to the next level. The athletes and activators will support each other to unlock media platforms, pitch to investors, speak out on live issues and tell new stories, getting into boardrooms and breaking down assumptions about women’s sport.
Some of the top female athletes taking part include 2016 Olympic hockey gold medallist Maddie Hinch, swimmer Lizzie Simmonds and Six Nations Grand Slam-winning rugby player Rachael Burford.
“It’s difficult to think of better role models than sportswomen, but it doesn’t feel they have yet reached the scale of profile and influence they deserve,” says Disney’s Hastings.
“I’m excited to hear direct from the athletes about the barriers they face and the opportunities they would really value so we can work together to help drive change.”
Together the marketers and athletes will form “a hive mind” aimed at uncovering the most urgent challenges facing women’s sport and developing ways to tackle them, explains CEO and co-founder of the Women’s Sport Trust, Tammy Parlour.
She argues that despite the increasing profile of women’s sport following the highly successful Women’s World Cup in 2019, which attracted record breaking international audiences, the value of women’s sport needs to be unlocked faster, with more impatience and greater ambition.
“There are still too many closed doors in the sports industry and beyond, which means progress has been uneven, and we see peaks and troughs of attention and investment,” Parlour states.
“That needs to change, and we believe this formidable group of women and our network of high-profile supporters can make it happen.”
She believes we have entered a new era for athletes acting as activists championing causes that matter to them. Parlour points to the likes of US footballer and 2019 World Cup winner, Megan Rapinoe, who used her platform to speak openly about inequality in sport, as well as male stars such as Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling, who has shone a light on racism in football.
During the campaign the athletes will be provided with coaching to make them more effective influencers and ambassadors, tackling everything from commercial insights to social media skills. The campaign will also be challenging the public to get involved and share how they have #UNLOCKED women’s sport.