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Unconscious Bias: Can AI Help?

For years, ‘unconscious bias’ was understood to be a distinctly ‘human’ problem. Now, with the increasing uptake of AI, and on the heels of suggestions it could solve our bias problem, understanding where the human influence in AI ends is more important than ever. 

Can AI help?

Unconscious bias is a key term in conversations concerning Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I). It refers to unintentional forms of discrimination or stereotyping based on a person’s characteristics, such as race, sexuality, gender, religion, or age, and it can often lead to unintentional favouring or disfavouring of certain groups or outcomes.  

As unconscious bias stems from the negative stereotypes we don’t know we might have absorbed, many have suggested that AI could potentially play a part in removing bias. After all, it’s not human, doesn’t have opinions, and should be entirely data-driven. 

Corporations are beginning to utilise this more and more, particularly in recruitment, marketing and PR. That’s because AI can provide key insights into audiences and candidates, as well as analyse bias in our own work that we may not necessarily see. 

For example, AI has been used by multiple corporations in their recruitment process, specifically to write job descriptions. The technology can help identify potentially problematic terms and phrases and provide inclusive alternatives. This can include things such as removing gender bias in descriptions typically tailored towards a certain gender, to challenge those stereotypes and encourage people outside of a usual target group to provide new opportunities. 

Is it really that simple?

Unfortunately, when it comes to AI, nothing is. 

As with anything else human-made, AI can easily pick up our own unconscious biases. It’s therefore incredibly important to challenge whether the data that has been used to educate it, was entirely neutral. 

I recently had a conversation with AI, where I tested its capabilities from an ED&I perspective. I asked a popular AI tool to create me a variety of football kits based on different themes. Whilst the themes were all very respectfully dealt with, there was one issue that cropped in every single kit it designed for me – every single one was for a male body. 

Have a look:

Interestingly, the designs make it clear that the data AI has gathered about football has noticed  the unconscious bias many of us have around football being a ‘men’s sport’. After all, the cold-hard data likely shows that men are typically more interested in football than other genders – mens sport is more widely shown, has a longer history, and will return more search results online. 

With this information, the AI has created kits that are suited for the biggest target market, as it understands this as being the way of them being typically designed. In doing so, it perpetuates the biased idea that football kits should first and foremost be more men. 

What can we do?

With the knowledge that the data underlying the AI could potentially hinder the ED&I process, it complicates the role AI can play in helping to remove or detect unconscious bias. 

For example, if you ask AI to recruit candidates for a job in STEM, it would analyse information online around “good” candidates, track that men are typically more likely to be hired in this field, and so would search for male candidates, not understanding that woman have systematically been alienated from this career area. 

All that being said – it doesn’t mean that we should remove AI from the equation altogether. It can still help! In many ways, AI is simply an extension of ourselves, a human that doesn’t need a lunch break or 8 hours of sleep, but does require constant education and training in order to evolve to be a better version of themself. 

And, as shown in the conversation pictured above, AI is able to provide information and content that can benefit the ED&I agenda – we just need to instruct it accordingly.

What does ‘good’ ED&I prompting look like?

Once you understand AI’s particular pitfalls, you can navigate around them. In ED&I spaces, that often means remaining mindful of the need to challenge responses to widen the representation within them, or challenge a stereotype. 

It comes down to the difference between ‘equality’, and ‘equity’. On the top line, AI may help with equality – which assumes that everyone ought to be on a level playing field – but it hinders equity, as it isn’t built to lift marginalised communities up. 

When prompting for ED&I purposes, consider these three tips:

  • Be specific
    Create a unisex football kit based on traditional Metal music graphics, include kits for all ages, genders, and abilities. 
  • Indicate tone and feeling 

The results should be playful 

  • Suggest a source 

Take inspiration from the latest England football kits 

The more considered and aware we are when prompting, the more useful AI will be. 

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Should Business and Politics Mix?

It’s official, high-drama-election-fever has begun…

For the next two weeks, the general election is going to carry on being the biggest thing in the news. It’s’ already drowned out other big business stories. Did you hear about the AI Summit in South Korea? Huge Ticketmaster hack? No? Anyone?

The truth is that most mainstream news, unless passed through the election filter, won’t make the front pages. So, it’s easy to think there are fewer opportunities to contribute to relevant news stories when the buzz in newsrooms is all about party politics. 

But we disagree. With a distinctive voice, your business can use this political moment to its advantage in the media – and raise your profile with comments that land.

When should a PR campaign and election campaign crossover?

Business leaders may worry that they don’t have a political licence to comment. But politics and business are close friends, so businesses can and should use this moment to elevate their brand. 

Given there will be a change in government, whatever form that takes, new legislation will come in. And multiple bills could be scrapped or introduced that affect B2B. These are active talking points and hotly debated topics. The country is listening in a way it seldom does – and so are journalists.

Now is the time to start thinking about getting involved. And here’s how…

Step 1: Know your perspective

Chances are your business already has an opinion or perspective on the key issues that affect your industry, and journalists are always on the lookout for bold opinions. It’s not about taking a political stance and picking sides. It’s about setting a business expectation for the next government. 

Of course, everyone is going to have an opinion of some kind. So, how do make your business stand out? It’s vital to be distinctive and find a unique angle. Drive the conversation around what matters, how your organisation has a different perspective and where you want to see an impact.

The key is to be less of a debate-starter and more of a valuable contributor. Many businesses will be ‘war gaming’ all potential outcomes that affect them anyway. And it’s a small step from scenario planning for differently electoral outcomes to sharing your views through earned media channels. 

Step 2: Know your media

The editorial environment fundamentally changes to accommodate election campaigns. Regular slots shift so press resources are free to cover political announcements, leaders’ gaffs, and public reaction. Sometimes, this comes at the cost of sacrificing regular business beats; for example, Ian King’s Business Live has taken a break for the next few weeks, so producers can focus on the election. 

Political announcements that concern businesses are still being made all the time. This widens the pool of potential journalists to tap into. It’s not just tech and business reporters that are interested in this type of news, but political / Whitehall reporters too. 

Business policy has always played a pivotal role in the polls, and journalists from a variety of beats are eager for industry feedback. In short, during an election, tech policy has never been more in the spotlight. This means sticking your standard media list could be short-sighted.

Step 3: Know your moment

It’s important to remember that it’s not just the public who will be inundated with general election news. Journalists will have to be really selective about the comments they accept. That’s why timing goes a long way. You, too, need to be selective about the PR pieces your business uses to cut through the noise. 

Right now, manifestos are being scrutinised – a clear opportunity to add industry insight and context to the narrative. Keynote speeches and the now-standard head-to-head debates all are instances where journalists are looking for an array of perspectives. That doesn’t mean putting out a wishy-washy opinion every week. But it does mean having an ownable comment, ready to deploy at the perfect moment, and making sure your spokespeople are up to speed. 

The general election has already claimed its monopoly on headlines. For B2B folk, this is the exact reason reactive PR is so crucial. Rising above the crowd with a distinctive voice will set your brand apart. Not only does it help raise awareness of your business, but it could also prove clients’ trust in your brand is well placed. It shows you’re on topic with your nose to the ground (as all good PR should be).

Reactive newsjacking is one of our strong suits. We’re also good at helping you keep things clean, concise and on-message with relevant distinctiveness. Just check out our work with cybersecurity giant Sophos.

Want help with developing some PR messaging that packs a punch during the pre-election run up? Get in touch here.

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What type of bland are you?

Get ready to dive back into the world of brand distinctiveness with some exciting insights from Breaking B2B Boundaries. 

It’s not every day you see Taylor Swift, Dishoom, and Boris Johnson mentioned in the same breath, especially when discussing B2B branding. But we’ve crafted an intriguing exploration on how to break away from the bland and make your marketing unforgettable.

As part of our ongoing campaign on the importance of content distinctiveness, this edition helps you avoid common dull mistakes—from the “stuck next to at a dinner party” kind of boring to the “political playing to the crowd” type of dull.

Curious to find out what type of bland you are?

Download our guide and dive in to discover more!

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The Cost of Being Dull

All Beige Everywhere 

Well-meaning attempts to optimise marketing has created a wave of mediocre content. Marketing materials – from copy to designs and concepts – now often take on a cookie-cutter look and feel. This approach naturally nudges everything towards the middle ground, stripping away most elements of character and creativity. 

Throw in the rise of AI tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney, and others, which are now being increasingly used to churn out AI-generated content, and ‘samey-ness’ and uniformity have become the common replacement for the distinctive or idiosyncratic. One thing is now more evident than ever – having a unique voice puts you in the minority.  

The Rise of the Dull-bots 

Algorithms have become agents of endless repetition, feeding their propensity to serve us more of the same. Faced with increasing pressure each year to deliver ever-improving results, brands are taking fewer risks, often happy to stick to the same ‘safe’ ideas. 

Typically, there’s a tendency for brands to focus too narrowly on performance marketing metrics. These metrics cater to in-market buyers and assume a level of pre-existing engagement. As a result, marketers frequently fall into the trap of repeatedly serving the blandest thing on the menu.  

This cautious approach creates a paradox. Historically safe approaches – like hedging bets and not taking strong positions on divisive topics – have become the riskier option. In an environment where differentiation is key, following a well-trodden path is likely to leave you wandering in circles. 

Ultimately, this mentality saps the excitement from creative ideas. It also dilutes their impact, reducing complex, nuanced content to a mere number that determines success or failure. 

The Price of Being Like Everyone Else 

Brands must realise that mediocrity comes with a price. While it may seem that ‘playing it safe’ saves or even generates money, in fact the reverse is true.  

Boring advertisements could cost advertisers £10 million more to get the same share of voice impact as more engaging ads. Simply put, if you’re willing to spend an extra £10 million for the same effect, then being boring might seem justifiable. 

As the world of marketing grows more competitive, even brands with a monopoly on their industry can’t rely solely on their budgets to capture the largest market share. The crucial currency today is not money – it’s intrigue. This remains the only effective antidote to the pervasiveness of dullness. 

Want to know how to make content that avoids the dull trappings?

Follow us for the next piece in our content distinctiveness campaign. Next week you’ll be able to read our latest blog that outlines the specific types of dullness that exist in the marketing world right now and ways you can break away. 

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Welcome to Breaking B2B Boundaries

B2B marketing has long been thought of as B2C’s unattractive sibling. 

But, we’re challenging this stereotype head-on with our thrilling new thought leadership series, Breaking B2B Boundaries. In today’s saturated market, not only is it crucial to stand out—it’s essential to thrive. 

Get ready because, over the next several months, we’ll be your guide through the complex terrain of building a standout brand identity. We’re armed with groundbreaking insights from industry leaders, actionable strategies from our foremost experts, and the latest trends analysed through rigorous scientific research. Expect comprehensive discussions covering everything from; crafting engaging content that resonates with your audience, to implementing the most effective digital marketing techniques, to deploying sophisticated communication strategies that cut through the digital noise. 

Our journey will begin with a deep dive into the concept of brand distinctiveness—what it means, why it matters, and how you can achieve it in your own B2B endeavours. If you believe, like we do, that B2B marketing harbours immense untapped potential, then you won’t want to miss what we have in store. 

Join us as we slice through the mundane and chart new territories in business innovation. With Breaking B2B Boundaries, we’re not just observing industry changes; we’re driving them. Let’s innovate, inspire and disrupt together. It’s time to transform B2B marketing and move towards exciting, new horizons.

Keep watching your emails, our website and socials for our content releases. Let’s make some noise together! 

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Nelson Bostock Shines in PR Week Top 150 League Tables 2024 

Hit the ‘exciting news’ klaxon!

2023 was a busy year. We had some remarkable campaign successes, we grew closer to our friends at TMW Business, and we burst into 2024 with the news that we’re joining the Accenture Song family!  

Through it all, the team have been working hard to deliver incredible results for our clients. And, with the release of the 2024 PR Week league tables, we’re excited to share that their hard work has been recognised. 

This year, we’ve earned stellar rankings in three critical categories. Each of them underscores our team’s relentless pursuit of excellence in public relations.  

So, without further ado…  

Take A Closer Look at Our Rankings 

  • Top 150 UK Consultancies: Ranked #60 
  • Top 150 UK B2B Consultancies: Ranked #32 
  • Top 150 UK Tech Consultancies: Ranked #9 

In the PR Week Top 150 Consultancies for 2024, we are honoured to hold the 60th position. This is not just a number—it reflects our robust client portfolio, the breadth of our expertise, and our unwavering commitment to delivering outstanding results. 

When it comes to B2B, we’re climbing even higher. This year, we secured the 32nd spot in the PR Week Top 150 B2B Consultancies Table. What does that mean? It means our agency’s dedication to building brand belief has been recognised. We’re experts in crafting tailored strategies that emphasize impactful storytelling and precise, effective outreach — and now you don’t need to just take our word for it.   

Maybe it’s bad to pick a favourite, but we’re most excited about our accomplishment in the PR Week Top 150 Tech Consultancies Table, where we are ranked… 9th! This placement within the Top 10 UK PR Tech agencies proves that we are a leading authority in technology PR, and recognises our innovative approach and deep industry knowledge. 

To consistently land in the top half of this who’s who of consultancy royalty is testament to the hard work, dedication, and the innovative spirit powering the teams behind the scenes here at Nelson Bostock. And we don’t intend to rest on our laurels.  

We are committed to continually setting the benchmark for excellence within the PR industry and providing strategic communication solutions that align with the evolving needs of our clients. 

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UNLIMITED acquired by Accenture Song

We are thrilled to announce that UNLIMITED has been acquired by Accenture. This acquisition marks a significant milestone in our journey, with a new future as part of Accenture Song.  After a period of sustained success, we are today joining the world’s largest tech-powered creative group.

Getting to know the Accenture Song team it has become clear we not only share the same vision for the future of marketing but have a shared passion for our people too. This acquisition brings an exciting opportunity to realise our longer-term ambitions for the agency as part of Accenture Song, and access a wealth of resources, insight, technology and the global network access that comes with the world’s largest tech powered creative group.

With our deep expertise in human understanding and our breadth of capabilities across comms, digital, marketing, insight and analytics, this acquisition enhances Accenture Song’s capabilities in driving marketing transformation and growth for our clients. 

We’re delighted to be all part of the Accenture Song family.

Click here for further details in our press release/to read what Campaign had to say

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The State of GenAI: Developments in Comms & Marketing

As we gear up to host the next chapter in our Humans vs Robots event series, we had the opportunity to sit down with our Group CTO, Tom Wilks, for an insightful discussion on AI trends. Our conversation covered recent advancements and shifts, practical applications, and the ways in which businesses are adapting to its integration since our last event in November.  

Across marketing and communications, leaders are shifting from cautious observation to active engagement with GenAI. This progression prompts crucial questions about the evolving partnership between humans and GenAI: What strategies ensure a positive-sum relationship? How can organisations steer clear of the common missteps in AI adoption? 

Read on to find out Tom’s perspective on these questions, and what the future holds for human-AI collaboration in the industry. 

Tom, since our last Humans vs. Robots event, how has the GenAI landscape evolved, particularly in the context of marketing and communications? 

In terms of AI development, five months can seem like a lifetime. Major players like OpenAI and Google have been quick to flex their latest and upcoming capabilities for 2024, albeit with a couple of notable missteps along the way. The marketing and communications industry is in the spotlight here as the rapid release of new platforms and tools directly impacts our everyday work – OpenAI’s soon-to-be-released Sora video generation platform being a prime example. These developments are nudging leaders in our industry to pay heed and consider accelerating the integration of these technologies into their strategies. Although there’s a natural inclination to proceed with caution, the fast-paced nature of GenAI advancements often means making important decisions with less-than-complete information. It’s really hard to build a coherent long-term strategy when you know that the ground is going to be continually shifting underneath you. 

Reflecting on the transition from ‘Experimenting with GenAI’ to ‘Strategising with GenAI,’ could you share insights on why a strategic approach is becoming increasingly important for businesses? 

Tech companies and startups are intensely vying to own this space – the competition is only going to increase and it’s an unenviable task to pick the winners. For brands adopting AI capabilities, this makes it challenging to commit to a single platform or strategy. The wisest option is to take a flexible yet strategic approach to GenAI adoption.  

As we shift from a ‘toe in the water’ to a more deliberate strategy phase, businesses need to be agile in their adoption of GenAI capabilities, while also ensuring their efforts are aligned with overarching business objectives.

As we shift from a ‘toe in the water’ to a more deliberate strategy phase, businesses need to be agile in their adoption of GenAI capabilities, while also ensuring their efforts are aligned with overarching business objectives. A strategic approach helps to concentrate resources on initiatives that promise the most significant impact as opposed to scattering efforts across disparate projects. Given the rapid pace of advancements in AI, incorporating flexibility into these strategic plans is crucial to adapt to the technological shifts that could render certain strategies obsolete in just a few months. 

Can you elaborate on the potential risks and opportunities for clients who either adopt or ignore a strategic approach to GenAI in their marketing efforts? 

From an internal perspective, I’d encourage marketing leaders to think broadly about GenAI use cases. Content creation has been an obvious area of focus thus far. However, companies may also find there’s huge value in implementing GenAI tools to enhance their team’s ability to understand and access information swiftly, massively reducing the time necessary to get from intention to result. Focusing on time-saving and better resource allocation allows for the setting of clear objectives and success metrics across the organisation. 

On the customer front, AI introduces the capability for personalisation at an unprecedented scale. Brands can achieve personalised engagement with their audience – such as tailoring messages to different audience demographics or geographies – without sacrificing reach, effectively addressing a dilemma that has long challenged marketers. The potential for creating personalised customer interactions without losing the ability to communicate broadly represents a significant leap forward in how we think about customer engagement. 

However, the journey towards leveraging AI strategically is not without its risks. The expansive potential of GenAI means it can be applied across a range of areas within an organisation, leading to the possibility of efforts becoming fragmented. This is a digital transformation challenge that any large organisation will be familiar with.  Without a unified strategic approach, teams might pursue individual goals with AI, leading to initiatives that, while meaningful in isolation, may not contribute to the overarching business objectives and could be challenging to measure for impact. 

With AI’s capabilities continually evolving, how should companies prepare their marketing teams to harness GenAI effectively and ethically? 

It’s vitally important for marketing teams to become technologically proficient in navigating GenAI while also staying true to high ethical standards. The first step towards effective preparation involves carefully aligning AI tools with their intended purposes. High expectations met with basic AI tools or simplistic prompts often lead to underwhelming results. This reality highlights the critical nature of choosing the right tools for specific marketing goals and ensuring the team has the necessary skills to fully exploit these technologies. 

Moreover, the evolving regulatory environment, alongside ethical considerations around data use, emphasises the need for responsibly navigating GenAI implementation. These factors underscore the importance of adopting a stance of transparency and accountability when deploying new technologies. In a time when AI misuse can significantly damage a brand’s reputation, it’s crucial to openly acknowledge the capabilities and limitations of GenAI initiatives and accept responsibility for their outcomes. 

Respecting the ownership of content used in AI models – especially custom models you’re developing in-house – poses another ethical challenge. As the industry seeks a balance between utilising AI for content generation and recognising intellectual property rights, finding a sustainable middle ground that respects creators’ rights while encouraging innovation is a necessity.  

Based on your experience, what are some persistent misconceptions about AI in marketing that you’d like to dispel? 

A common misconception that continues to surface is the belief that AI tools offer a one-size-fits-all solution. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that the effectiveness of AI in marketing is deeply contingent upon selecting the right tools tailored to specific objectives and harnessing those tools to their utmost capacity. This misunderstanding highlights an urgent need for education and strategic thinking within the industry. 

Many approach GenAI with the expectation that any tool can automatically adapt to any marketing challenge, which leads to disappointment when results don’t meet expectations. Adopting AI alone won’t solve your marketing challenges; it’s about integrating it thoughtfully and strategically into marketing practices to address specific problems and achieve defined goals. 

Another overlooked aspect is the dynamic and evolving nature of AI technologies themselves. What works today may not be the best solution tomorrow, and what’s designed for one purpose might not be effective for another. Marketing professionals need to stay informed about the latest developments in GenAI technologies, understand their unique strengths and limitations, and be willing to turn their hand to new tools as they become available. 

Finally, looking towards the future, how do you envision the role of human creativity and insight evolving in partnership with GenAI technologies? 

The future of human creativity and GenAI technologies is equally thrilling and complex. From what we’ve experienced over the past year or so, it’s clear that our relationship with AI will not follow a linear path. Instead, we should anticipate cycles of acceptance and scepticism as AI’s capabilities continue to expand at an astonishing rate, with new breakthroughs emerging every 6-9 months. This rhythm of rapid advancement and integration will naturally bring its share of challenges, underlining the fact that our journey with GenAI will be tumultuous, marked by both incredible highs and inevitable lows. 

Despite these challenges, the possibilities are boundless and offer a source of great excitement. Identifying where AI can be used as a force multiplier for human efforts will not only enhance the scope of what we can achieve but also elevate the quality of our creative outputs. 

In the end, I envision a future where this partnership between human creativity and GenAI technologies creates a fertile ground for innovation and greater job satisfaction. The path may not always be smooth, but the potential for transforming how we tackle problems and find creative solutions is truly immense. 

=== 

As we look forward to exploring these themes further and uncovering new frontiers at the Humans vs Robots 3 event on Thursday 2nd May, 8:45-10:30am, we invite you to join us in this exciting journey. This is your opportunity to engage with those exploring and innovating at the forefront of GenAI and marketing. Whether you’re seeking to refine your strategy, discover the latest trends, or simply be inspired by the potential of GenAI, this promises to be a must-attend event for brands and professionals. Register now for Humans vs Robots 3 and secure your spot. 

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Winning Minds Awards: March 2024

Welcome back from the Easter break! Before the long weekend, we celebrated this past month’s best work…

PR Minds – Matt J

“Matt has been so impressive over the past month, really stepping up on his account and wowing the clients.

He’s been a machine, taking a reviews programme and running with it, securing new reviews weekly and flagging hot off the press coverage to the client team. He’s developed excellent relationships with our core journalists and played a key role in managing invites and chatting with journos at the launch event last week.

Matt is a PR legend and impresses us every week with his proactivity, product knowledge and superb attitude. A Winning Mind for sure!”

Kaleidoscope Minds – Hannah G

I think there should be a special medal (or even Damehood) for a person who volunteers to give up their weekend + a few evenings to deliver a client presentation on a complex subject.

Hannah is that person.

Truly going above and beyond to deliver for a tricky client. Hannah is a design superstar!

Marketing Minds – Louisa B

Louisa just pulled it all off with the delivery of a client’s annual research report – their ‘hotly anticipated’ project for the year. The project landed on her with a huge level of expectation and Lou delivered. She used her super organisational skillz and managed the international & local clients, our colleagues at Walnut and our own team to keep the project ticking along, on time, and on budget. The feedback kept coming as the client praised Lou’s collaborative approach and willingness to steer the project from the helm and honestly it just wouldn’t have happened without her. ❤

GOAT – Kerri B

Kerri has only been here a month and has impressed literally everyone under the sun. She’s efficient, she’s organised, she’s a vibe and all in all just a total boss. Big fan.

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Why tech sponsorship can be a game-changer for women’s sport

The last year has been an almighty big one for women’s sports. Attendance records have been broken, coverage rights have been snapped up, and viewership figures are soaring faster than Chloe Kelly’s penalty kick that sent England to the World Cup quarter-final. (That was 111km/h to be precise, a speed faster than any single kick recorded in the 2022-2023 men’s Premier League season). 

The numbers speak for themselves. A Deloitte study predicts that in 2024, for the first time ever, women’s elite sports will generate a revenue that surpasses one billion dollars, 300% higher than its 2021 prediction. This exponential growth is despite women’s sport still only having a seventh of the media coverage that the men’s does. There’s huge untapped potential still to unlock in a sector that’s only just firing up.

This International Women’s Day, we take a look into why tech companies and women’s sports are the ultimate sponsorship power couple. 

Purposeful partnerships

Sports sponsorship offers a unique opportunity for brands. You’re not only associating your brand with a product, you’re associating it with a lifestyle, a community, and a legacy. That’s why the key to a successful partnership is one driven by a harmonious set of values, towards a mutual end goal. Fans want to see how sponsors are actively going to improve the sport and its surrounding community.

When it comes to women’s sport, while this responsibility gets greater, so does the potential reward. Viewing figures for women’s sport in the UK are soaring by 131% year-on-year. As the audiences continue to grow, brands have the opportunity to invest early in a market ready to boom. 

While it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of all this growth, women are far from competing on an even playing field. From Luis Rubiales planting an unsolicited kiss on Jenni Hermoso as she was about to lift the World Cup trophy, to Joey Barton’s misogynistic comments about female pundits, the past year has highlighted the amount of work still left to be done. 

This makes women’s sport sponsorship inherently purpose driven. And with purpose being a territory which 65% of UK sports fans say they want to see more of, brands have the opportunity to not only see a return on investment, but to establish themselves as a part of the movement towards gender equality. 

A winning team 

What was once tobacco, then beer, then gambling, the major players in sports sponsorship have not only been targeted at male audiences, but their industries have always felt disconnected from the high performance of elite sports. Whether it’s shaving 0.1 seconds off your lap time in motorsport or adding an extra 0.1 metres to your golf swing, sport today is all about micro-improvements. From wearable technology to track performance, to data analytics tools to find those micro-improvements, a huge amount of innovation goes on behind the scenes.

That’s why tech is the most natural sponsor of sports we’ve seen. And for the women’s game, it has the potential to play a pivotal role in fast-tracking progress towards equality.

Advancing the game

Due to years of under-investment and a shortage of research, female athletes can often lack the support they need to excel at the rate of their male counterparts. While the male game sees the highest levels of innovation implemented behind the scenes, there is still a distinct lack of technological improvements in women-specific equipment and apparel. 

Take women’s football as an example, at one point last season, 25% of the 2022 Ballon d’Or nominees were sidelined with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. Research released last year revealed how the use of unsuitable football kit could increase the chances of this injury. When it comes to a boot, a woman’s foot differs in shape and size to a man’s, and an average lighter body weight affects the length of studs required. While boots have long been advertised for women, they haven’t been designed for their bodies.

Showing how tech can support women on the field, as Official Insights Partner to the 2023 Women’s Six Nations, Sage introduced the Smart Ball. Utilising Sage’s unique access to insights, it offers players, coaches, commentators and supporters valuable data and insights into the game. Crucially, it has been specifically developed and adjusted for the women’s games to take into account the differences between the male and female player. Not only does it work towards advancing the sport, but it positions Sage as a market leader in data and insights. 

Bringing fans closer to the action

SPORT Unlimited’s ‘The Female Fan Opportunity’ report found that while half of women in the UK identify as a sports fan, 31% said they weren’t familiar with women’s teams, players or competitions. A crucial element of engaging these fans is providing consistent coverage. 

In football, only 2% of print and 6% of television football news mentions in the UK are dedicated to the women’s game, compared to 98% and 94% achieved by the men’s game respectively, highlighting the ground still to be made up to enable fans to fully connect with women’s sport. 

But while the broadcast world plays catch up, tech can lead the charge by providing the tools and platforms needed to connect fans to the sport. Whether it’s through social media activations, live-streaming, or more bespoke digital campaigns.

Through its partnership with The FA, the Google Pixel has launched an initiative to increase the quantity and quality of women’s football coverage, inspiring fans, young and old, to get involved with the sport. Creators and presenters will work together to tell the stories of women in football from unique perspectives. From the professional level to grassroots football, creators will use the Google Pixel to capture powerful moments surrounding the sport.

It’s a great example of how the product can be the hero of the story, connecting fans to the action and driving womens sport forward.

Finding new audiences 

While at the core of every purpose-driven sponsorship should be the mission at hand, brands can simultaneously benefit from the partnership. As audiences grow, brands affiliated can get more share of voice among supporters and amplify their brand visibility on a global scale.

A great example of this is Adobe becoming the title sponsor and tech supplier of the Women’s FA Cup. Through the partnership, all 460 teams that participate in the competition will gain access to Adobe Express, an all-in-one content creation application that makes it easy to create social media and brand content. The hope is that the technology will make it easier for teams to engage fans and increase awareness on digital channels, driving attendance and participation. 

With the Adobe name and branding featured across the tournament’s channels, Adobe will be in the living rooms of everyone tuning in, and front of mind for all audiences engaging digitally. The partnership landed great coverage not only in sports press but national too, promoting the purpose behind the sponsorship and creating positive sentiment around the brand.

Women’s sport needs technology as a partner to power it towards the mission of equal funding and equal coverage. For tech brands looking to amplify their product while driving purpose, there is truly a momentous opportunity in front of them. 

The women’s game is finally getting the hype it deserves, and if you disagree, then I think I’d have to quote the wise Mary Earps…