Sport England appoints Alison Donnelly as first digital, marketing and comms boss

Donnelly will oversee the team responsible for Sport England's successful, ongoing 'This Girl Can' campaign / Sport England

Sport England has tapped Downing Street's head of news Alison Donnelly to fill the newly-created role of digital, marketing and communications director.

In the executive-level role, she will be tasked with converging and leading the government body's existing digital, marketing, campaigns, comms and external affairs teams.

She will oversee the team responsible for Sport England's successful, ongoing 'This Girl Can' campaign – which has been running since 2017 to address the fear of judgement that stops many women and girls from being regularly active.

The exec will also work closely with chief executive Tim Hollingsworth to raise the public profile of Sport England’s mission to enable everyone to benefit from sport and physical activity.

Donnelly's hire follows on from the departure of Dave Newton, Sport England's former executive director of mass markets, who departed in early 2019. Newton's responsibilities will fall under Donnell's new remit.

She is currently the prime minister’s deputy official spokesperson and head of news at number 10 (roles which she's held since 2017), speaking daily on behalf of Theresa May and leading the Downing Street press office team. She's also held comms roles at HM Treasury, as well as media and public affairs roles at the BBC and BBC Worldwide.

She is set to join in November.

Sport England chief exec Hollingsworth said the new position was "a crucial leadership role for the organisation" as it continued to "actively and passionately" make the case for sport and physical activity for all.

"Ali came through a highly competitive process with a strong field of highly qualified candidates and brings a huge amount of relevant experience coupled with a genuine passion for sport and its transformative power. I look forward to welcoming her later this year," he added.

Last year, Sport England retained FCB Inferno – the agency behind the 'This Girl Can' campaign – following a mandatory government review.

The work has been credited with encouraging 3.9 million women across the country to take action when it comes to sport. The most recent iteration focuses on the barriers lower-income women face when it comes to partaking in sport.

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