Sport England chief on the pressure to repeat success of ‘This Girl Can’ as 2017 campaign is readied
A follow up to This Girl Can – arguably, the most successful ad campaign of recent years – will be launched in early 2017. But the momentous challenge of repeating that success has not been lost on chief executive Jennie Price, who recently told The Drum that the pressure is intensifying as the reveal date draws closer.
This Girl Can
However, it’s only been in the last three months that Price and FCB Inferno – the agency behind the original This Girl Can – have been able to get working on the campaign. Sport England is publicly backed and as such it needs special permission for any of its funds to be used for advertising. That sign off took time, despite the undisputed success of the first campaign.
It was based on research suggesting women were far less likely than men to take up sport and the insight that the underlying reason was their fear of being judged.
The resulting ad was set to Missy Elliott's ‘Get Ur Freak On’ and saw a bunch of street cast women of varying abilities participate in some kind of sport. The honest portrayal and upbeat message was an instant hit.
But beyond the millions of views, some three million women reported that they have done some or more activity as a direct result of the campaign.
So how do you follow that up?
“What the reaction to the first campaign has shown is that the insight is absolutely right. Women, all over the world, say ‘I get this. I feel like this’. So the insight [that underpinned the first campaign] is going to be used in the next,” Price explained at an event on 'Female Empowerment', hosted by creative agency Aesop.
“And we really want people to recognise it. People feel ownership of [the campaign] now and there’s a community around it now. So we want them to recognise it and feel good about it, and there will be recognisable things, but we also want to move it on a bit.”
Price added that this sense of ‘ownership’ people have over the campaign, as well as the plethora of awards that it won, has also put extra pressure on her and FCB Inferno to deliver something good, if not better, than the original.
"Being from outside from outside the advertising world, when someone asked me to go to Cannes I had to have it explained to me,” joked Price. “And then suddenly there we were being given Gold Lions. And once you’re in that world you realise what an enormous honour that it. So yes, there is definitely pressure!”
But, forgetting the hype, Price’s biggest mission is to engage with the many women who might have recognised themselves in ‘This Girl Can’ but for whatever reason didn’t take up more sport.
The challenge she now faces is that the success of the campaign, arguably, began this ‘female empowerment’ rhetoric that many brands have adopted. Proctor & Gamble, for example, launched the much loved ‘Like a Girl’ spot shortly after.
She said rather than this Sport England seeing this as making it more difficult to cut through, the change the tone from so many brands has created such momentum that Sport England has been inspired to “keep pushing.”
“It’s an entirely good thing that there are more brands talking about female empowerment or just talking to women in a different way,” said Price. “I don’t think it matters that there’s lots of different brands doing this. It’s not novelty. As long as people recognise and relate to it.”