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Cadbury on how its ‘natural’ match with Man United will help it tackle loneliness


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

February 25, 2020 | 5 min read

Cadbury, the Mondelez-owned chocolate giant, has been tackling the issue of elderly loneliness since last September via its ’Donate Your Words’ campaign. Now, it's adding football into the mix to reach untapped audiences, working with Manchester United drive a conversation around the isolation faced by older people in the UK.

Donate Your Words

Cadbury and Manchester United partner for an Age UK pitch against loneliness

Over the last six months the sweet manufacturer has worked with charity Age UK to create touching ads, pop-up shops and wordless packaging designed to highlight solitude. The work is based on the insight that 1.4 million older people struggle with loneliness in this country. 225,000 often go a whole week without speaking to anyone. Naturally, a brick of Cadbury chocolate and a hot drink serve as a strong-conversation starter for the brand.

On Sunday, Cadbury teamed up with Manchester United to swap child mascots for eleven guests of honour who were led onto the pitch ahead of its game against Watford. The older generation were shown shaking hands with the Red Devil's top players, making the problem of loneliness more visible. The 11 participants were all locals aged 61-87 and dedicated Manchester United fans, picked out by Age UK. Guests at the 75,000-seat stadium and countless millions of viewers were reminded of the 'Donate Your Words' campaign and urged to contribute.

Looking forward, football has been identified as a "natural" channel to spark discussion around the topic. Cadbury's latest collaboration follows on from the FA using football to talk about mental health. More recently, Manchester United itself has also been using its platform to do good in that space.

‘A natural way’ to tell the story of Cadbury and Age UK

Colin O'Toole, the associate director of marketing of Cadbury equity, who leads the Premier League partnership at Mondelēz International, said that the chocolatier has had a few successful years in the top flight to build upon.

"This partnership feels like a natural way to tell different stories for both brands," he explained.

It marks the first time that Cadbury has embraced a team partner to tell its story. However, Man United will be "the first of many" this year, O'Toole said. It will work with VCCP to help tell these stories.

Although United has stuttered from a performance perspective over the last few seasons, the club still boasts a global community of 1.1 billion followers for Age UK to speak to. For Cadbury, the executions will focus on building out the fan experience; delivering something a bit more resonant than a quick piece of content.

O'Toole dug into the heart of the scheme: "If older people are going to a match one week, it is awful to think they may not hear another voice until the next game the following week." Research from the group claimed that more than 6 million older people claimed a few minutes of conversation would make a huge difference to their week, even if that conversation is about football.

The chocolate producer said it was attracted by the club's integral role in the community, all the way up to its high prominence visibility on the world stage. The hope is that football fans of all creeds and colours will buy into the scheme.

O’Toole said that the campaign builds into its wider ethos that "there is an instinct for generosity in all of us".

"We started last September when we donated the words from our iconic Dairy Milk bars, as well as 30p from the sale of each special bar to support Age UK. Since then hundreds of thousands of people have responded to the campaign which makes a real difference to people of this generation."

The measure of the campaign's work in football will be just how many words are donated around these high profile match day events, although sales will serve as a more reliable long-term guide

O'Toole concluded: "As a brand Cadbury has a long heritage of bringing people together through our products and in caring for the communities. For instance, we were among the first companies in the UK to offer an old-age pension."

Sean Jefferson, director of partnerships for Manchester United, added: “We’re pleased to start our global partnership with Cadbury by supporting their ‘Donate Your Words’ campaign. T

"The club is encouraging all fans to give a few moments of their time to speak to older people around them who might welcome a thoughtful conversation. Any small gesture and interaction can play a part in helping to help tackle loneliness among our older generation.”

You can watch the United players talk loneliness with their oldest fans on Facebook here.

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