A clear singular insight combined with a meticulous eye for detail helped create the winning spot for EE that was at the heart of its Hope United 2022 campaign to tackle online sexist hate ahead of the UEFA Women’s European Championship.
“Anecdotally, the vast majority of our Home Nations female footballers have received online sexist hate. And according to the UN, globally, women are 27 times more likely than men to have received sexist online hate,” says Sarah Heavens, senior creative at Saatchi & Saatchi.
“But women aren’t sending hate to themselves, so they shouldn’t be the ones to tackle it. It’s not their problem! Instead, men should be the ones to step in as allies and help solve it.”
The aim was to raise awareness of online sexist hate as an issue without making women seem like victims, and to get men to be part of the solution without making them seem like male saviours, according to the agency’s executive creative director Will John.
“Women in football and beyond face loads of problems in their everyday lives, but online sexism should never be one of them,” he adds. “So, we briefed our teams to bring this insight to life in a kick-arse and empowering way.”
As a powerful storytelling medium, TV was the only choice, says Alice Tendler, group head of brand marketing at BT Group.
“As a technology leader, EE is committed to driving positive change in our digital lives, which involves tackling complex issues like online sexist hate,” she explains. “As a medium, TV gives us space to highlight the issue at hand in a way that feels properly emotive and entertaining.”
John continues: “TV is the place to make people sit up and engage with totally new ideas and perspectives, because we have that wiggle room to get our message across on a mass level.”
The creative idea was to hero a host of Lionesses battling the problems (and pain) they endure for their sport to make the point that sexism shouldn’t be seen as one of them.
This arose out of ongoing conversations with female athletes involved in Hope United, the team of footballers EE recruited to support its campaign against online sexist hate, about the daily challenges they face – such as leg injuries; sleepless nights from childcare; the potential threat of younger opponents and, even, starting a period while training miles from a usable loo.
“Getting all of this colour from our athletes led to our ‘problems’ script, where we bring all of our athletes’ problems to life and then finish on the rug pull that online sexist hate shouldn’t be one of them,” John says.
“Sexist hate?” the spot ends: “it’s not her problem. It’s ours.”
Working with director Sascha Rainbow through Academy, the team nailed the detail of depicting the problems the ad would show.
Rachel Brown-Finnis had had her teeth knocked out when she was a goalie, for example. So, a scene was conceived showing her having new front teeth fitted in the dentist’s chair.
Demi Stokes’ partner was due to give birth. So, another scene was devised showing Demi awake and rocking her newborn in the early hours.
“We were keen to show the truth of the women’s experiences, not sugar coat it,” Tendler stresses. As an example, she points to the decision to plan for prosthetics to depict Lucy Bronze’s leg being stitched up.
It was all about helping to normalise conversations and experiences you don’t always see on screen – such as the period scene, which was widely praised for its realism when the ad proved a major hit post-launch.
As work to bring these ideas to life progressed, the team faced a number of challenges. One was the nightmare of getting so many elite athletes together in one place.
Four days had been scheduled for the shoot. And thanks to BT Sport talent lead Kim Fitsimmons, everyone who was needed was on time and on site. But for the Hope United end frame – featuring all the Hope United squad athletes – green screen and post production came into their own.
Another challenge was ensuring the spot could be shown pre-watershed to maximise its reach. So, some of the shots and dialogue that were initially intended had to be dialled back to get the ad through ClearCast.
The commercial launched on July 6, in time for England’s first game against Austria, as part of a truly multichannel campaign push – OOH, outdoor screen takeovers and social media were all part of the mix, which even included branded deckchairs and beer mats.
“It was great to see how the public engaged with our campaign online,” says John. “Obviously, there were a few trolls. But there was overwhelming positivity and support from women and, most importantly, men.”
The reception to the campaign, which ran until the tournament’s end, was brilliant, says Tendler, adding that she is especially proud of having got male Hope United ambassadors to step up.
“The idea that men can help tackle online sexist hate against women hasn’t really been tabled in mainstream culture before,” she notes. “It feels like a real cultural shift.”
Second in the July-Aug Thinkboxes was 'Rocky' by Neverland for Ladbrokes. 'Loaf like you mean it' by Isobel for Loaf was third.
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Creatives: Will John, Nathan Crawford, Will Brookwell, Sarah Heavens
Client: Alice Tendler
Production company: Academy
Director: Sascha Rainbow
The Thinkboxes, in association with Campaign, are the only bi-monthly awards that celebrate the UK’s world-beating TV ad creativity, in all its forms. They are judged by the Thinkbox Academy – advertising and marketing luminaries who have been involved in award-winning creative work for TV.
Thinkbox is the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, in all its forms. Its shareholders are Channel 4, ITV, Sky Media and UKTV. Thinkbox works with the marketing community with a single ambition: to help advertisers get the best out of today’s TV.