11th August, 2015 at 9:30am
Breakfast Briefing: Sporting Creativity
Talk | Shoreditch House — By invitation to YCN Company Members

On Tuesday 11th August we explored the effective teaming of creativity and sport with Rapha's Jack Saunders and Ewan Paterson, Creative Director at BBH Sport.

On Tuesday morning, YCN Members and friends gathered in the Library of Shoreditch House to unearth the opportunities and creative inspiration to be found within the world of sport. To share their stories and insights in this arena, we welcomed the creative leads of two sporting organisations. With his extensive experience of creating award-winning, sports-related campaigns for leading brands in the US and UK, Ewan Paterson – Creative Director at BBH Sport – was well placed to offer a broad and informed perspective of new ways in which brands are engaging with fans around sport. And to reveal the culture and approach to creativity at one particularly popular sports brand, we turned to Jack Saunders, Art Director at Rapha – who oversees global creative for the cult cycling brand, across everything from packaging and retail displays, to events and exhibitions, and print publications such as the recently launched Mondial magazine. 

Together with Ewan and Jack, we explored how brands can harness the power of sport to create authentic and meaningful connections with fans. 

Breakfast in the Library at Shoreditch House

Guests catching up over breakfast

Six things we learned

1. Sport is highly emotional and truly social.
A favourite sporting quote of Ewan’s comes from Liverpool FC’s Bill Shankley: ‘Football is not a matter of life and death, it’s much more important than that.’ Sport encompasses all emotion – everything from joy and elation, to anger and despair – which creates endless content and conversation, and makes it a powerful tool for brands and organisations to harness when looking to meaningfully engage with people. Sports connects people around the world. And with 75% of football now being watched with a second screen, there’s more opportunity than ever to follow and take part in social sharing and commentary. 

2. Instil passion in the workplace.
Jack and Ewan agreed on the importance of creating teams with a true passion for sport. As Ewan put it, “if you work for a category you love, the work will be good.” At BBH Sport, being a sports fan is part of the criteria for new staff. Meanwhile, at Rapha’s head office in King’s Cross, cycling is firmly embedded into company culture, driven by CEO Simon Mottram. Wednesday mornings are given over to flexitime for cycling, staff have an extra two days off each year for sporting activities, a television screens cycling live – employees can leave their desks to watch the last 5k of any race – and safe bike racks and showers are available for everyone to use. The company motto, Glory Through Suffering, reflects both the attitude of employees in the saddle and in the office – always pushing harder and digging deeper to go that extra mile. 

Ewan Paterson gives an introduction to BBH Sport

Our guests at Shoreditch House

3. Know your fans. 
Rapha’s cycling-mad company culture gives the brand an unprecedented understanding of its customers, and faster access to new ideas. Everything the brand does is created by cyclists for cyclists, whether that’s cycling gloves with sweat (and snot!) absorbent material worked into the design, or turn-ups on jeans that reveal a reflective pattern for night-time cycling. The brand’s much-admired photography features real riders, not models, who style their own outfits based on what they’re comfortable wearing, and the team’s numerous cycling trips means they’re never short of inspiration and insights on the best locations. Authenticity is important in the sporting industry, Ewan stressed, and imposters are easily sniffed out. The main thrust of BBH Sport’s Unlock the Game social media-led campaign for adidas was that “to engage with fans, you have to act like a fan.” 

4. Data – cold or creative? 
Whether it’s Nike’s interactive treadmill installation or William Hill’s virtual reality horse racing experience, data – particularly performance data – is becoming an increasingly popular feature of sports-related campaigns. Ewan admitted to his love for a good sports statistic, but agreed with Jack that although data can lead to creative ideas, there is the risk of coming across as impersonal and cold when taking a predominately data-led approach to communicating with fans. With its recent Data Print, Rapha opted for a storytelling-led approach instead – turning data generated by Team Sky’s Peter Kennaugh into a striking print, with the help of design agency Accept & Proceed. Essentially, says Jack, turning a dull spreadsheet into graphic art, with a real human story behind it. 

Our guests at Shoreditch House

5. Connect through compelling stories 
With its rich history and culture, sport offers seemingly endless inspiration for storytelling through content and design. Bringing both together, in July Rapha launched Mondial – a print publication for members of its Cycle Club. One of the aims of the magazine is to open up the world of road cycling – reflected in the content, which includes features on everything from Bradley Wiggins to Big Data. Rapha has always strived to seek out the best of these stories, and bring them out through design details – from factoids stitched into clothing labels, to packaging that’s inspired not by current design trends, but from references within the sport itself. 

6. Women are still under-represented in sport
Women are still woefully underrepresented within the world of sport, but the popularity of campaigns such as This Girl Can by Sport England and Better For It by Nike Women are signs that gender equality is slowly but surely making its way onto the agenda within the industry. BBH Sport has seen a definitely boost in clients keen to profile and celebrate women in sport, said Ewan – many of them wishing they’d thought of This Girl Can themselves. At Rapha, currently 20% of sales come from women, and Jack revealed that the brand is taking a grassroots level approach to connecting with the female market. 

We would like to thank our speakers, Ewan and Jack, for their contribution to the event and Sam Bush for taking photographs. 

A passion for sport

Goodies bags of cycling-themed treats

Event Details
  • Location:
    Shoreditch House Library,
    Ebor Street,
    London, E1 6AW,
    United Kingdom
  • Start:
    11th August, 2015 at 9:30am
  • End:
    11th August, 2015 at 11:00am

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