Media spotlight: Nationwide tackles racism in football following Euros final

In the latest instalment of the series, Wavemaker talks about its partnership with Nationwide to tackle racism head-on following the Euro 2020 final, in which England lost to Italy. The aftermath was marred by a racist backlash against the team's black footballers.

Nationwide: emotive ad around Euro 2020 featured a boy called Finton talking about football and respect
Nationwide: emotive ad around Euro 2020 featured a boy called Finton talking about football and respect

Describe the brief in a nutshell (include any KPIs where possible)?

Nationwide is different to the banks it competes with; its brand purpose is to build a better, stronger society, with mutual respect for all.  

As part of this, Nationwide is the official partner of the FA Respect programme, helping to foster respectful behaviour among children on and off the pitch within grassroots football.

Nationwide’s Mutual Grants have allowed grassroots clubs across the UK to apply for £1,000 grants to promote a respectful game, and 100,000 local community football teams now have access to "respect" tools.

We wanted to communicate this commitment to mutual respect through football, and in doing so drive greater brand consideration among young families – a primary target audience for Nationwide. 

We’d seen a fall in our brand health measures among this critical audience, so we wanted to use our partnership with the FA Respect programme to demonstrate Nationwide’s difference within the financial services category, and get more young families to feel positively about the brand. 

Who was behind the campaign?

Wavemaker: Rachel D’Cunha, strategy partner; Amy Elston, planning director; Emily Hooper, planning director; Francesca Leech, strategy director; Chandni Fokeer, precision director; Jack Henderson, media lead, AV; Emily Smith, media director, AV; Callum O’Brien, content lead; Zoe Wilkinson, project director.

Creative agency: VCCP

Media partners: ITV (partnership) TV: TV, Channel 4, Sky; VOD: Finecast Reactive social: Twitter News: Daily Mail, Metro, The Guardian, London Evening Standard, i, The Times, Daily Express and Daily Mirror Digital press: Ozone Project, Mail Metro Media Outdoor: Global, Clear Channel and JCDecaux.

What was the critical insight and how did it help you come up with a solution?

Mutual respect is a key value for Nationwide, but we soon realised the stark truth that people felt respect in society was at an all-time low, with 71% of UK adults saying they felt it was on the decline. We had less tolerance for difference, were less accepting of opposing views, and behaving with less integrity. 

Football is our national sport, and something that embodies huge passion and joy, and brings people together across the UK. 

In 2021, live sport had a resurgence as the world re-emerged from Covid-19. We decided we would create a campaign to hero our FA Respect partnership, harness the passion for the beautiful game, and use it to promote mutual respect in wider society. 

It would allow us to sidestep the intrinsic cynicism that the public felt about respect in today’s society, and give us a vehicle to create an emotional connection with families, showcasing Nationwide’s work at grassroots level to foster a more respectful future in football and beyond.

Talk us through the campaign planning process.

We crafted a strategy that would allow us to be both planned and reactive. We would commit to an association with football through investing in big broadcast moments, but also respond in real time to celebrate and commiserate with the nation and our team. 

First, we partnered ITV to sponsor the England games in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup. This would deliver huge reach against families and establish the connection between Nationwide and the beautiful game. 

Then we activated a bespoke TV spot campaign in and around the Euros. 

An emotive 60-second ad featured a little boy called Finton telling the nation what he had learned about acceptance, kindness and friendship through playing grassroots football. 

We cherry-picked programming that performed best against our core audience as well as over-indexed against joint viewing, so we could reach families watching together. This included presence within matches like England versus Austria, which reached 3.3 million people, but also shows like Googlebox and Bake Off The Professionals. We accompanied this with a broadcaster VOD targeting family households, to increase reach against lighter TV viewers. 

We also ran our mutual respect message across our national out of home package, a channel critical to bolstering reach against younger and more diverse audiences.

And we activated a national news campaign, appearing in the sports sections of key titles and using contextual targeting throughout digital news platforms, to ensure we were present in the most relevant and up-to-date Euros editorial. We planned the campaign dynamically to respond to the result of the match the day prior, tailoring our message of support accordingly. 

What were the pivotal activation elements that brought the campaign to life?

Our plans were solid and comprehensive, delivering our message of mutual respect at scale across multiple platforms. But what really sets this campaign apart is what happened next. 

The UK was riding high as England progressed through the tournament, eventually reaching the final with Italy on 11 July 2021. 

But then England lost. And what followed was perhaps the most high-profile display of hate and disrespect seen for a generation. 

Like many, we were shocked and appalled by the racist abuse directed at some of the England players. As the official FA Respect partner, how could we possibly stay silent?

Time was of the essence, and unless we could activate within 24 to 48 hours of the final, the moment would have passed. We needed channels that could bring our message of mutual respect to the heart of the conversation, at mass scale, and quickly. 

Twitter is the home of football content and buzz – in fact football is the most tweeted topic in the UK – but sadly it is also often the place abuse occurs. We activated a paid Twitter campaign denouncing the racist abuse and promoting a message of kindness, tolerance and respect. We also ran a bespoke press campaign across national news, calling out the England team as the "Nationspride".

Please indicate the cost range of the media campaign:


What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Our biggest challenge was carving out space for Nationwide among the cluttered and brand heavy territory of football, especially around an international tournament like the Euros. 

But by establishing our association with the beautiful game early, with the ITV England Games sponsorship, we were able to elevate the status of mutual respect within football, despite the noise of supermarkets, beer and pizza brands that were also leveraging the moment. 

Our other challenge was making sure we connected with families – not just football fans – within our campaign. This involved thoughtful media and creative solutions. Featuring a child in our emotive TV ad, and hand-selecting family moments and programming, we made a powerful connection with parents, not just your typical football fan. 

Lastly, we had to step up when it really mattered and demonstrate our commitment to mutual respect in the face of racism and disrespect following the final. We faced up to the fact football can bring out the worst in society, as well as the best. 

What results did you achieve and what makes them special? 

We embarked on this campaign to reach young families at scale, and make them feel more positively about Nationwide as a brand that builds society through mutual respect. 

We achieved this and more. 

Our TV campaign reached 39.2% of our 25- to 44-year-old adult audience, and we drove a strong response from viewers. System1 tracking corroborated the strength of the work, awarding it an Exceptional Spike rating of 1.47, driven by intensity of emotional response and social listening showed many viewers felt compelled to comment and share how much they loved the ad. 

When we reacted in real time to the racism that followed the final, we delivered more than 1.6 million impressions in less than two days on Twitter, and reached 2.4 million people across national news brands, with our message of respect in the face of abuse. 

Econometrics analysis also shows that our sponsorship of England games on ITV was the second biggest paid media driver of current account sales in 2021 (second to affiliates, a pure conversion channel). This demonstrates communicating our brand values around mutual respect is not a "nice to do", it delivers a hard commercial return. 

Watch: Emily Hooper – "Why I'm proud of this campaign"

What's the biggest lesson you took away from the campaign?

Our biggest lesson learned was anyone can plan to talk about brand purpose, but ultimately acting on those values when it matters most is what makes Nationwide different. 

Is there anything you would have done differently? 

We all believe we could have done even more. More budget would have meant more reach and more exposure to our message of mutual respect, and more families feeling positively towards Nationwide. But we have taken our learnings forward, and are buoyed by the results we’ve seen from Kantar and our econometrics. 

With 2022 being a year full of high-profile, galvanising football moments, we plan to activate mutual respect in the beautiful game again. 

How did this media innovation advance the industry?

VCCP’s casting of Finton in our TV ad is also significant: unbeknown to viewers, Finton has autism. We are proud to have enabled him to tell his own story, in his own words, on national TV, in the biggest sporting event of recent years. 

Become a member of Campaign from just £88 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a member

What is Campaign AI?

Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content