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Sport England Dark Social This Girl Can

Sport England's head of brand and digital strategy on This Girl Can challenges and being innovative to target audiences


By Dani Gibson, Senior Writer

August 3, 2017 | 8 min read

This Girl Can is a multi-award winning campaign from Sport England that helped change the way millions of people think about exercise and physical activity. Head of brand and digital strategy, Kate Dale is responsible for delivering the campaign and has seen 2.8 million more women get active as a direct result.


Kate Dale on This Girl Can challenges and innovative ways to target audiences

Talking to The Drum, Dale explains the challenges that the second phase of the campaign has faced, finding different ways of getting the message to the audience and how Sport England worked with Spotify to target ads to those who hadn’t used the This Girl Can playlist in a while.

After its success in the UK, the campaign will be making its international debut in Australia after the non-departmental public body entered into a partnership with VicHealth.

What do you believe have been the biggest challenges that Sport England have had to contend with over the past year?

For us it was This Girl Can. It was putting out our second creative. The first one had such an amazing response and great impact that there was a fear of letting down our community and doing something at the next level. It's harder, more challenging and nerve wracking watching something when you're already a bit famous. I think doing something and making sure we could do it so it was true to our insights, true to our community and still had an adequate impact to the masses was a challenge.

It's also a different world one way or the other since we launched This Girl Can and a lot has happened over the last 12 to 22 months globally. Launching and working on a female empowerment campaign two weeks after Trump had been inaugurated and everything that has been happening, I think the challenge there has been how we make sure we were relevant and still had something to say.

What do you believe are the key trends in the industry right now?

People are bombarded with so much media marketing that I think there's a requirement in everything you see towards creativity and more innovative thinking. Not just in terms of the creative that you produce but the planning and the buying. So, you're finding different ways of getting your message across, but also finding ways to do it that are right and relevant for your client and audience.

There's always a pressure to move things more towards online, digital and social because it's perceived to be cheaper than traditional television and out of home but it's not necessarily better value of money. You need to look at what it can deliver you. What you need is to have a completely integrated mix where they all support each other.

Where do you see the industry going in the next 12 months?

It will be on the emerging talk about dark social and trying to find better ways of using that. I wonder how well that will succeed. I think you have to give a very strong offer, clear insight and real reason to be there without it feeling intrusive.

I also hope to see more plans and thinking about who they (the industry) include in their advertising and marketing images and think more laterally so we just don't go with the lazy stereotypes of women serving food and men being sexists husbands. But actually, thinking broadly about who can get the message across without it being particular types.

What has been the most innovative thing that you have done in the past 12 months?

We worked with Spotify to target our ads at women who hadn't listened to the This Girl Can playlist for a while and to send them an ad to get them back into it. We had a great response to that and was very effective in terms of research but also anecdotes as well.

It was innovative for us because it’s looking at what people aren't doing as well as what they are. We had an interesting challenge with This Girl Can because normally I think, with social media you are going out to buy people who are doing what you want them to do. We were trying to find the people that don't look like that, so it's like a negative buying strategy than a positive one.

For the second phase of the ‘This Girl Campaign’, you have been using traditional media methods, are there any plans to extend this into digital?

We are working at how we evolve the campaign, we would expect to see more digital and social play a bigger role within that. We have an amazing community of 700,000 women who provide service support advice and love to use our service.

So, we look at how we make sure that stays relevant, how we keep that fresh, how we produce content that they can share and keeps them involved and engaged. Give them new reasons to get them involved or sign up and support and get active as well. Supporting that as well with influencing the market, getting the right women to go out there and talk about it.

Recently there has been distrust in measuring digital success from platforms like Facebook and YouTube, how does this affect Sport England? What are your thoughts on brand safety?

We use independent and robustly tested quality and quantitative market research to understand the impact the campaign has had on both attitudes and behaviours. For This Girl Can clicks and likes are valuable but it's the affect we have on what our women think, feel and do that matters.

It's about how many women we have got active and trying to monitor and evaluate what it is that got them active.

The DADI Awards 2017 are introducing a new category, Best Tech Platform. What platforms have been effective for This Girl Can?

The most effective platform for us was Facebook. It's not new but the conversations we were having on there in regards to support were really helpful. We had one woman who posted about having abuse from a man in a van when she was out running and asked what she should do. She had 2500 pieces of advice within three days, from women who came in to support her.

So, Facebook for us is still delivering. We have also extended to Snapchat for our younger audience with filters which has been really good at getting our message out. They're not new platforms by any means but they work for us.

Dale is a judge for the DADI Awards 2017. The entry deadline has passed but you can apply for an extension now. Not sure what category to enter? Contact for more information.

The DADIs are brought to you in association with UKFast and are sponsored by: Shazam, Forrest Brown and Impact Radius.

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