We talk to great creative minds from Genie to see what they make of the ‘Fabric of England’ work by McCann London & Show Racism The Red Card.
Every so often a campaign comes around that really gets us talking, thinking and sharing.
Following the racist abuse that several England players received at the end of the Euros, the charity set out to educate people on the importance of immigration, while championing the diversity of the England squad. The result? A specially designed football shirt which showcases the many nations that make up the England team, and which has since been popping up all over our social media feeds.
So what do other expert creatives make of the idea?
To find out, we spoke to a small group of GENIE’s members: Jonny Marsh and Charlie Parker, the creative team behind adidas and Arsenal’s award-winning ‘No More Red’ campaign; Jen Piggott and Mart Tighe, whose recent portfolio includes Paddy Power’s ‘Rainbow Laces,’ as well as a football campaign tackling domestic violence; and Stu Hallybone the Creative Director of Creators With Purpose, which works with brands and creators making a positive impact on global and societal issues.
Here’s what they had to say.
So, what do you think of the campaign?
Mart: I haven’t seen many campaigns lately where everything fits together quite so neatly. It feels very cohesive.
It’s so important that creative work like this is being made. Football is a good platform because it has mass appeal; everyone is watching and talking about it together, and then an idea like this comes along that fits perfectly into that conversation.
Jonny: It’s a beautifully executed campaign done with a lot of class and style – both in the way the shirt is physically made, and in terms of what it stands for.
Sadly this isn’t a new conversation, it’s one we’ve been having for many years. But it remains so relevant, arguably more so now than ever. This campaign is a reminder that sport – especially football – has the power to reach people in a way that a lot of other things can’t.
Jen: If you were scrolling and saw this shirt you’d look twice; it’s something that’s so visually striking and different. What I also like is that the image alone gets you thinking; if it stood alone with no headline you’d be able to work it out, which is always rewarding. It’s one of those ideas you’d talk about in the pub with your friends.
Stu: There’s something very powerful about an idea which is hooked to a tangible object like this shirt. Having a physical object – especially when it’s something that you’re used to seeing that you can then subvert – is what gives it such shareability. The name is also really clever.
Would you have any builds on the brief?
Jen: I want to buy one myself! That’s the only thing I’d have done differently.
Mart: There’s merit in the simplicity of the idea, but it does have legs to do more in the future. For instance you could create a custom shirt for each player in the team, showing each individual’s own heritage. Or you could allow people to make their own digital version.
Stu: If I were to build on this campaign, I’d say don’t stop there! I know that Show Racism The Red Card does a lot of work in schools, so it has me wondering whether phase two of the campaign might be recruiting local football heroes to wear the shirts and visit schools. To me, that would feel like a natural progression.
I’d also wear one of the shirts myself because, unlike some charity merch, they look the business. Maybe they could partner with a retail or sports brand to allow people to buy their own one, with funds going towards the charity – or even a virtual version, through a skin in Fortnite, for instance.
Are there other brands that you think could be doing more work like this in the future?
Jen: I hope this inspires other brands to enter the conversation. It shows that if you have a strong idea then you don’t need a large budget, because people are going to want to talk about it. I hope that other brands see this work and recognise the strength of the talkability factor.
Charlie: Within the context of sport, it’s often the players who are taking it upon themselves to lead certain conversations – look at people like Marcus Rashford. But I’d like to see brands take more of a stand as well. And actually there’s a commercial as well as a moral case for them to do so; Nike received some backlash for its Colin Kaepernick ad, but ultimately it saw its stock prices soar as a result.
Many of the UK’s fastest growing businesses are founded by people who are immigrants. Deliveroo, Monzo, Gettit, Transferwise; these are all businesses who are driving our economy. So how could they also be making a stand on the subject of immigration? The creative industry has a part to play in this respect too; it’s so important that our industry continues to lead these conversations, and it’s smart work like that that will allow us to do that.
Stu: Hopefully, with more campaigns like this out there, the wider the door opens for creative work to kickstart these conversations. So many people in our industry are incredibly driven to do the right thing and use their creativity for good, and I hope we’re going to see more and more work like this in future.
Anything else to add?
Charlie: To me this feels like one of those briefs that the creatives took to the client, rather than the other way around. As creatives we should do more of that. Don’t wait for a brief; if you come up with an idea like this that has meaning to you, don’t just sit on it; reach out and find a way to get your idea out into the world.