EE promotes British Sign Language with football superstars

The campaign helps to keep British Sign Language users involved in football culture

Georgie Moreton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


From throwing both hands up in celebration to signalling where to pass the ball from across the field, a new campaign from EE shows all the ways that knowingly and unknowingly British Sign Language (BSL) is incorporated into football. The campaign is part of a wider push to encourage the nation to upskill and learn BSL.

The  ‘Support. It’s In Your Hands’ campaign  has been created by EE and Havas Play with support from Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD) and the Home Nations Football Associations. Alongside a video showing how signing is ingrained into Football, the campaign also features tutorials from footballing stars such as Harry Kane, Mary Earps, Bukayo Saka, Rachel Corsie, Sarina Wiegman and Dion Charles, to use sport as a catalyst to encourage the use of sign language in deaf and non-deaf communities.

The campaign strives to make sure that everyone feels a part of the football conversation. The campaign film uses an array of archive footage, fan user-generated content and original content to show how BSL, as a combination of hand gestures, facial expressions and body language, goes hand in hand with how referees, players, managers and fans communicate in the game.

An estimated 1.2 million adults in the UK have hearing loss severe enough to impede conversational speech, yet there are just 150,000 BSL users, 87,000 of whom are deaf. The ‘Support. It’s In Your Hands’ campaign aims to increase these numbers and leverage sport as a powerful tool of unification and community.

The dynamic campaign film showcases the power of togetherness and highlights the way in which football goes hand in hand with BSL, be it at grassroots level or at international stage. The array of footage from both on and off the pitch shows the breadth of expression and range of communication types fans and players engage in.

The film drives audiences toward the EE LearnSmart platform where they can then find tutorials from the players that teach football-themed BSL. The players teach phrases including ‘goal’, ‘shoot’, ‘great defending’ and ‘great tackle’, helping fans make the football conversation more inclusive through easily digestible, engaging content.

Inclusion in action

The campaign is part of EEs ongoing commitment to supporting the disability community in football and beyond. By working closely with the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD) as a Charity Partner throughout the campaign, EE was able to ensure that all accessibility requirements were met to promote BSL in the most authentic, accurate way.

To drive further engagement the campaign film will be played at England’s sold-out friendly against Brazil at Wembley Stadium where two of its mascot spaces will be allocated to deaf children who will sign the National Anthem with guidance from RAD’s accredited British Sign Language performer. While on social media a squad of five content creators will help to spread the message by producing their own content that helps teach the basics of BSL through the football lens.

The campaign is also supported with a paid media and amplification strategy across EE and its partner’s social channels where content will be distributed to promote the use of and learning of BSL. The ‘EE BSL challenge’ will see three male England players take on three Lionesses in an obstacle course that requires them to complete sign-based challenges with the help of four England Deaf squad players. 

Beyond driving awareness, the campaign strives to upskill the nation through teaching and by providing resources. Doubling down on its commitment, internally EE will be facilitating training for its colleagues in Deaf Awareness courses which include some BSL basics. Across the wider BT group, EE will also contribute to further Deaf Awareness and British Sign Language learning alongside an accessibility audit for consumer-facing web pages.

"'Support. It's In Your Hands' aims to bring about tangible change and increase awareness of British Sign Language. We want to encourage everyone to play their part and make a difference to the shared enjoyment of the beautiful game,” added Pete Jeavons, Marketing Communications Director at BT and  EE.

Capitalising on the unifying power of sport EE puts inclusion into action by facilitating genuine, accessible conversation.