Cultural relevance is at the heart of BT’s brand strategy. We’re constantly looking for moments to make a positive impact on society and fulfil the brand’s goal of helping 25 million people make the most of life in a digital world by 2026. The eagerly anticipated summer post lockdown gave us one of these opportune moments.
Firstly, we had the perfect platform to be heard. As the sponsor of three of the Home Nations participating at the Euros football tournament, BT had a unique opportunity to strike up a different type of conversation and unlock new audiences.
Secondly, a pressing societal issue with close links to football and BT was starting to dominate the airwaves. The topic of conversation? Online hate. Whilst some brands were making people aware of the problem, concrete action was noticeably lacking. So, when new research revealed that 1 in 10 of us had received online abuse in the past year, we agreed that BT had a duty to speak out and use the unique set of raw materials at our disposal to make a tangible difference.
As well as the brand’s timely football sponsorship and enviable national reach, we had an established ‘Tech Tips’ digital skills programme that had become hugely popular during lockdown. This gave us a credible platform to build from without restricting our creative ambition.
The challenge was to take these enticing ingredients and find a unifying creative idea that would address the issue head on, whilst capturing the imagination of the UK public.
We knew half measures and telco advertising conventions wouldn’t cut it. So, we ripped up the rule book and asked ourselves what would motivate people to get involved and make the campaign standout amongst all the other Euros related noise.
But not just any old club. We launched Hope United; a diverse dream team of football players from across the Home Nations with the goal of tackling online hate. The squad managed by Rio Ferdinand comprised of men, women, and para-footballers, including the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jordan Henderson, Gareth Bale, Andy Robertson, and Lucy Bronze. All of them had experienced online hate and wanted to do something about it.
From the outset, we committed to looking and behaving like a football club. This involved working with a design partner to develop a striking brand identity, including the team’s badge and kit.
The role of the squad was to not only help people understand the devastating effects of online hate, but to also deliver Tech Tips from BT that showed them how to be part of the solution. After some teaser activity on the players’ social platforms, we launched with a hard-hitting TV spot during the Europa and Champions League finals on BT Sport. High impact out of home executions and extensive media coverage both paid and earned, ensured that Hope United became a hot topic of conversation from day one.
The Tech Tips were rolled out across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, again using the personal accounts of Hope United squad members to expose their millions of followers to the campaign. A dynamic club website featuring all team related content was developed to give people an ongoing place to immerse themselves in Hope United’s mission, alongside further social and partnership activity that will run throughout the Euros. A stream of influencer initiatives, including highly prized Hope United shirt drops, will add further social currency, with the integrated media plan phased to ensure that engagement levels remain high throughout the summer and beyond.
Whilst it’s early days, the team is already making a big impact. After only a week, we’ve reached 103 million people through the social accounts of our players, been featured in 127 articles with a total circulation of 2.94 million and smashed our website visits target. This bodes well for our digital skills goal, with the eagerly anticipated results published after the Euros. Anecdotally, we’ve also had ITV, Pinterest and EA contacting us on the back of the campaign to discuss partnerships and there have even been reports of ‘knock off’ Hope United merchandise being sold online!
Hope United has turned into one of the biggest campaigns in BT’s history. It’s set to do a brilliant job of improving perceptions of the BT brand, with plenty more to come from the team in the future. Most importantly, it’s been created to collectively help address and combat the massive issue of online abuse. It’s a huge challenge, but when you’ve got a squad packed full of winners and an ambitious client, nothing is impossible. Stay tuned.