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How BT promoted women’s football by redesigning a London pub

The Red Lioness in Moorgate.

Pitch Marketing Group scored a goal for equality with its Red Lioness campaign for BT Sport, winning the Sport and Leisure category at The Drum Awards for PR in 2020. Read how they transformed one pub and encouraged hundreds more to provide women’s football fans with a home for the beautiful game.

The challenge

If the pitch is the hallowed turf, the pub is the church where fans congregate to worship the beautiful game. But women made up just a third of pub visitors last year. And while 59% of women’s football fans said it helps them feel part of a community, they still don’t have anywhere to watch a game.

With one billion fans tuning into the Women’s World Cup and 77,000 at Wembley for England vs. Germany, a tipping point had arrived. BT wanted to seize this moment, to change pub culture for good and create a new home for fans of the women’s game.

The campaign objectives included establishing BT Sport as a champion of women’s football and its fan community; getting at least 150 pubs to sign up to the pledge to broadcast women’s football; all while supporting the success of UK pubs and enhancing BT’s relationships with their pubs and clubs network.

On 7 November 2019, Pitch Marketing Group transformed the Red Lion, Moorgate into the Red Lioness – lighting the touch paper that would spark a nationwide movement to change the way we view women’s football forever.

The Red Lioness Pledge signalled a commitment by pubs to screen and promote every televised WSL and Lionesses’ match, while creating a welcoming environment for all. The pub doors opened with celebrities, influencers and media all invited to join the pride and promote the Pledge. For te days it hosted a celebration of women’s football, creating a lasting legacy.

From a single pub, another 816 followed, with more joining every week.

The strategy

Pubs are vital to the commercial success of BT with BT Sport subscriptions accounting for millions of pounds in annual revenue. But with 235 pubs closing every month, it’s imperative, for pubs and BT, that they adapt and find new revenue streams.

The Red Lion is famously the UK's most common pub name - there are 656 across the country. Renaming the Red Lion to the Red Lioness, was intended to be both a change of symbol and a symbol of change. It signalled the start of a nationwide movement to join BT and broadcast women’s football live in pub venues.

The Red Lion in Moorgate was the ideal location for the launch: its position in the arguably masculine City of London gave an extra incentive to make this a place female fans could call home.

It had to represent genuine change, so the team changed everything through a full redesign, and a new logo and visual identity. 100 years of history were brought to life through photography, caps, shirts and trophies, and the world’s first honest-to-goodness women’s foosball table. The pub even had its own Red Lioness Pale Ale on tap.

The campaign

As part of Greene King’s commitment to the Red Lioness Pledge, they provided the venue free of charge including closing it for the refit on 6 November.

On 7 November doors opened, with celebrities, influencers and media invited to join the pride and promote the Pledge.

The results

Since the launch of the Red Lioness, Moorgate on 7 November 2019, 816 pubs have signed up to the Red Lioness Pledge.

During the 10 days the Red Lioness was open, Greene King reported a 64% increase in like-for-like sales during the same period in 2018. And sales of the Red Lioness Pale Ale were up 16% on the previous two weeks. Key partners, Stonegate and Michells & Butlers, have now approached BT to establish long-term Red Lioness partnerships.

There were more than 30 pieces of coverage specifically regarding the Red Lioness pub, in sports nationals online and print, sports verticals, national broadcast, trade and pubs & clubs media. With a live segment on the initiative on BT Sport ahead of the women’s North London derby.

100 attendees at the press launch (capacity 100), with over 65 media and influencers in attendance. All earned. There were 230+ influencer or media social posts during launch week with a social media reach of over 3m. The #RedLioness hashtag was trending on Twitter on the night of the launch.

“We have been blown away by how pubs up and down the country have got behind the Red Lioness pledge. We currently have one in fifty pubs in the UK and Northern Ireland signed up the Red Lioness Pledge up to show Women’s football in their venues. With that number increasing every week what started as a ten-day activation to raise awareness is leaving a lasting legacy.” - Ed Cracknell, head of marketing, BT Sport

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for PR in 2020. To find out which competitions in The Drum Awards are currently open for entries, click here.