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Kick-off transfer deadline day with a donation to the Homeless World Cup

Kick-off transfer deadline day with a donation to the Homeless World Cup

As the clock ticks down on what is set to be another record breaking transfer window, you’d be forgiven for getting caught up in the hullabaloo of the modern day football circus.

After all there is little escape from Sky Sports’ rolling news coverage and its perpetual scenes of reporters jostling for a glimpse of a club’s new multi-million pound signing in the latest transfer exclusive.

But over in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, an eight day football tournament with a difference is well underway and this year is set to be bigger than ever.

This year’s Homeless World Cup will see 570 homeless men and women from 54 countries across the world compete in a celebration of street football.

Connected by their love for simply playing the game, the tournament uses the power of football as a force for good to tackle homelessness. It has always amazed me how sport has a transcendental quality to transform lives for the better. The direct impact of the Homeless World Cup has on people’s lives is nothing short of remarkable.

An astonishing 94 per cent of players surveyed after the tournament last year in Glasgow said the event had a positive effect on their lives while an estimated £10m in social capital was generated from helping people off the street and into employment.

If you’re wondering how football can bring about positive change there are many benefits for a person who is homeless getting involved with the sport.

As well as developing relationships and learning to trust teammates, street football can also improve aspects of a person’s life such as regaining self-esteem, improving health and well-being and reconnecting them with friends and family.

The impact of this year’s tournament will also be far-reaching.

Not only are an estimated 3 million people set to tune in to the tournament which is being streamed live on YouTube, an innovative Fairtrade partnership between the Homeless World Cup Foundation and sports co-operative Bala Sport will ensure that an often forgotten army of men and women making footballs in Pakistan will also benefit by receiving fair rates of pay, safer working conditions and access to union representation.

This year Stripe is proud to be able to lend a hand to the Homeless World Cup Foundation supporting the charity to raise the national and international profile of this inspirational event.

So next time you refresh your Twitter feed this transfer deadline day to see if your club has bought anyone half decent, instead why not take the time to see how your nation is performing in the Homeless World Cup.

For more information or to donate and help to change the lives of homeless people around please visit www.homelessworldcup.org.

Stripe back on campus to talk PR at Northumbria University

Stripe back on campus to talk PR at Northumbria University

Ten years ago I graduated from Northumbria University a bit of a crossroads. With a degree in English Literature and Film Studies, an empty wallet and a C.V. which included a variety of trades, from meat-packing to tea-towel printing, you could say I was a little confused about what to do next.

However, rather than selling my soul to become a prodigious blues guitarist, instead I decided to train as a broadcast journalist – before swapping a career as a hack for PR and marketing. The rest as they say, is history.

So when I was invited to deliver a presentation to MSc International Sport Management students at my old university stomping ground, it felt like I had come full circle. Having been asked to share my insight and experience of what industry best practice looks like, I jumped at the chance to hop on a train to Newcastle.

Inspiring future industry talent

The private sector has an important role to play in sharing advice with young people on the key attributes and skills they need to enter the workplace. While I get the sense there is still more work to be done in this area, positive strides are already underway.

Stripe is an agency committed to developing the next generation of communication professionals. As well as regular visits to present to students at Edinburgh University and Queen Margaret University, we continue to hire young and dynamic talent through our graduate recruitment programme, Stars and Stripes.

Each year we take on bright and enthusiastic grads to join our ranks and be part of Stripe Academy, our training and development programme. Now in its eighth year, the programme has kick-started the career of 25 outstanding graduates.

My presentation was focused on providing students with a better understanding of the value of PR, and its effectiveness for delivering impact as part of a brand’s integrated marketing strategy. As well as demystifying the industry, we discussed strategic thinking, campaign planning, media relations, community management, measurement and evaluation, agency life and what brilliant work looks like.

Andrew presenting to Northumbria Uni studentsPR presentation

Of course a sport-themed lecture wouldn’t be complete without some career highlights, and a few sporting anecdotes from a portfolio that has included sponsorship activations and event management, from football to mountain biking. I was delighted to wax lyrical about some of the projects I’ve enjoyed working on recently, such as the IRN-BRU Cup activation with A.G. Barr and the SPFL, Strathmore water’s Do More campaign and the UCI Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup.

But the key takeaway I wanted to share with students was that while the rules of engagement may have shifted over the last decade, the fundamental principles of communication are as relevant today as they always will be.

For me building strong relationships, no matter what industry you work in, will always open new doors and spark fresh opportunities. While creating deep and meaningful stories will always be the difference between a good campaign and a memorable one.

But if you’re thinking about a career in PR, here’s some of my top advice to get you started:

  • Writing wizardry: From drafting media releases to crafting sticky social content, excellent writing skills are an essential tool for PRs. Starting a blog, writing for your local newspaper or simply keeping a diary can help improve your tone of voice, spelling and grammar.
  • Confident communicator: While sending and replying to emails is a daily job, PRs are not keyboard warriors. Starting conversations is what we do best – so make sure you have great set of social skills and enjoy talking to real human beings!
  • Stay informed and be curious: As a PR it’s important to stay on top of current affairs and the wider news agenda. We work closely with the media and speak to reporters every day. With the rise of fake news, it’s best to go straight for quality journalism and pick up a newspaper.
  • Organise work experience: There really is no better way to learn about PR than gaining first hand industry experience. Why not apply for a week placement with an agency, or in a brand’s marketing department. I’d also encourage getting in touch with your local paper, TV or radio station.
  • Make a good impression: Showing interest in the job is a no brainer, but don’t forget to be passionate and enthusiastic about what you’re doing. If you get the chance of work experience, it’s your opportunity to make your mark.
You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to Do More

You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to Do More

The start of a New Year is always filled with the best intentions. Resolutions are made with the hope of turning personal goals and ambitions into action.

However, if you’re like me and find it a challenge to change your spots, by now you’ve most likely cancelled your gym membership and returned your spandex. So how do we translate good intentions into actual behaviour change that sticks?

There’s no doubt that the greatest behaviour change campaigns are those which have quality research and data at their heart. Understanding audience insights is a powerful tool for creating relevant stories that get under the skin of target audience groups for delivering impact.

This Girl Can is a perfect example of an active lifestyle campaign with a compelling message that has reached millions of women with a call to get active, and fall back in love with exercise and sport.

Bringing a simple yet powerful message to life with the aim of influencing behaviour change was a proposition put forward to Stripe and our partner The Leith Agency as part of our activation of Strathmore water’s latest Do More Challenge campaign.

The purpose of the campaign was a simple one – to encourage Scots to get active and lead healthier lifestyles.

Research revealed that lots of barriers exist which prevent people from engaging with exercise, including accessibility, time and convenience. While we discovered there is no one size fits all approach, people were more likely to engage in activities that felt inclusive and open to all ages and abilities, as well as being affordable and fun to participate in.

The campaign focused on promoting participation in cycling, swimming and running, and to help reach more Scots we recruited the support of Olympic and Paralympic heroes, cyclist Katie Archibald, swimmer Ross Murdoch and wheelchair racer Samantha Kinghorn.

Known as Team Strathmore, the athletes launched the Strathmore Do More Challenge to encourage Scots to reach for their trainers, hop on their bikes and put on their swimwear, with a competition to win a once in a lifetime training experience with our Olympic and Paralympic stars.

Running on Facebook, Twitter and via a targeted media partnership, entries flooded in from across Scotland. Winners were chosen based on the best photos of them taking part in one of the three sports. 36 winners, from Dundee to the Isle of Bute, attended the events which were held in Glasgow at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre, Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and Emirates Arena.

Video credit: Gavin Sturgeon

Thanks to Katie, Ross and Samantha and their coaches, the events were a fantastic success and an example of how the positive role of athlete ambassadors can help brands to engage more deeply and create memorable experiences with their audiences. The personal experience of watching an Olympic gold medalist hurtle round the Velodrome track also had a profound effect on my own training goals. Since then I’ve been inspired to start cycling to work.

OK so it’s only been a week, but a simple message delivered in a dynamic and engaging way can shift perceptions – because doing more is actually easier than you think.

Brands ready to rumba after coming in from the Cuban cold

Brands ready to rumba after coming in from the Cuban cold

This may be sacrilege to some of my colleagues at Stripe, but I must confess that I’ve never watched Keeping up with the Kardishians.

To be honest, I’d sooner rub raw onions in my eyes. Yet the latest instalment of this hit US TV series has grabbed my attention due to the location it was filmed: Cuba – a country I visited back in May.

Dubbed the episode where Kim and Kanye ‘smoke cigars, eat rice and beans and take selfies’, it has drawn criticism for glamourising a country without showing the real problems.

While some of these concerns may be justified, I’d argue the glamourisation of Cuba to leverage brand awareness is a growing trend not confined to the Kardashians.

Out of exile

Under communist state rule, the country has remained a brand-free zone for more than 50 years.

That’s right…no Coca Cola, no McDonalds and no Starbucks.

It’s hard to believe in 2016 that free trade and commercial advertising remains prohibited on the island. But this may be about to change, after President Obama and Raul Castro signed an historic trade agreement earlier this year signalling an end to a stand-off between the two countries.

With Cuba ‘officially’ open for business it appears brands are looking to seize the opportunity of the moment to be part of a country on the verge of great social, political and economic change.

Back in vogue

Cuba has fast become the hottest place for brands to be associated with in 2016. The Rolling Stones performed to more than a million people in March, shortly followed by Chanel which launched its latest fashion collection with a catwalk through the iconic streets of Havana.

Havana Cuba - Rolling Stones 2016

 

Havana Cuba - Chanel 2016

 

But what value does Cuba offer to brands?

We’re always searching for compelling ways to tell stories which resonate with our client’s audiences. At a time when content remains king, Cuba is brimming with vibrant and dynamic narratives. It has a rich and colourful identity thanks to its passion, culture and history and these qualities offer brands lots of emotional hooks to connect and engage their audiences.

Rum brand, Havana Club, for example, is the latest to serve-up a slice of Cuba as it looks to connect consumers in London to its Caribbean roots. Billed as the ultimate pop-up, Casa Havana will use oculus-powered virtual reality to wow the UK capital with a full-sensory experience enabling visitors to get a unique feel of Cuban life, its environment and identity.

VR offers the ultimate gateway for brands to connect audiences to exotic and intriguing places like Cuba, and it will be interesting to see if there is a growing trend for using VR from travel brands in the future as more consumers look to try before they buy.

Kim and Kanye’s latest adventure certainly shines a spotlight on the growing appetite for Cuba as a future place to visit, invest and do business.

A thawing in US/Cuban relations has grabbed the world’s attention and while I’m not a fan, the latest episode of The Kardishians arguably helps to inadvertently raise awareness of the country’s less glamourous side by captivating new audiences to go and find out more about this enigmatic island.

Full Speed Ahead For Team Stripe at Mountain Bike World Cup 2016

Full Speed Ahead For Team Stripe at Mountain Bike World Cup 2016

The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William has legendary status amongst the global mountain bike community. Every year, thousands of fans, riders and media make the pilgrimage up to the Scottish Highlands to watch the sport’s elite stars battle it out on the slopes of Aonach Mor in the hope of winning a World Cup crown.

This year, organisers Rare Management, tasked Stripe with building pre-event awareness and engagement on and offline to help drive ticket sales and excitement.

It’s the eighth consecutive year Stripe has been responsible for delivering communications activity at one of Scotland’s major annual sporting events. Our role is multi-faceted and ranges from maximising opportunities to raise the profile of the event through media relations, social media activity and stakeholder engagement to managing UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) media accreditation and photographers from across the globe in the onsite press office.

With a shift towards a more clearly defined digital strategy, we used Facebook and Twitter as our key communication channels to connect and resonate with die-hard fans, as well as engaging with families looking for something different to capture their kids’ imaginations.

Mountain Bike World Cup 2016-Steve Peat and Legends of the future

Supported by strong media moments, including a high impact press launch with Fort William legend, Steve Peat, we achieved some great media cut through for a sport that continues to struggle for column inches in the British press. The results have so far been epic, and we’re not just talking about this year’s winning riders, Rachel Atherton and Greg Minnaar, who stole the show in the women’s and men’s elite downhill events.

Mountain Bike World Cup 2016-female winners-stripe

In the month leading up to the downhill action, our social media content reached more than 450,000 people – almost 7,000 Facebook page views and 44,000 post engagements took place during the event alone, where activity peaked.

We also secured a wide variety of earned media coverage in national print, broadcast and online media titles, as well as mountain bike trade magazines.

Early indications suggest it’s been a bumper year for ticket sales.

Thanks to the glorious Highland sunshine as well as some incredible sporting moments, there’s no doubt this year’s Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup has been one of the best yet.

Mountain Bike World Cup 2016-bowl-Stripe

Going upstairs risks putting rugby fans to bed

Going upstairs risks putting rugby fans to bed

As the dust settles on this year’s RBS Six Nations, it’s a chance to reflect on what’s been another entertaining championship.

In many respects the tournament will be remembered for England’s Gram Slam winning efforts, as they look to rebuild after an embarrassing World Cup exit last October.

At Stripe we’re always keen to explore how brands are finding new and interesting ways to engage with their fans. And while I could discuss each nation’s marketing credentials in more detail, there is a major talking point in need of some serious airtime.

Going upstairs to consult the Television Match Official (TMO) is a current moot point in world rugby. If you’re not familiar with the in-game technology, TMO is a tool used to help match-day officials make ‘accurate and consistent decisions’ in key areas such as whether the ball crossed the line for a try.

While there’s no doubt about the need for this technology to exist, there is a growing perception amongst fans and pundits alike that referees are now relying too heavily on TMO to make decisions.

Rugby, like all professional sport, is a game of fine margins. The decision to award a try or not can mean the difference between success and failure.

However, there is a fear that referees’ liberal use of this technology risks spoiling the spectacle for fans.

This was evident in the first match of the Rugby World Cup between England and Fiji last year. After months of media hype, all eyes were on Twickenham – including tens of thousands of potential new rugby fans.

This was rugby’s moment to show the world why this thrilling high impact sport is so admired. Instead, the match was a less than compelling stop-start affair, with the referee punch-drunk on TMO.

Twitter went bonkers. Fans new and old weighed in, criticising the referee and the way TMO was sobering the passion of the moment.

The relevant authorities responded to criticism saying only 28 per cent of stoppage time lost in the opening match was taken up by the TMO process.

While this figure might not sound like much, I’d argue that any amount of time wasted watching a big screen during a live event disrupts engagement, dampens spirits and draws attention away from the magic of the experience.

Concern over TMO was also evident in this year’s Six Nations, when England flanker, James Haskell, was sin binned against Ireland. Hyper slow motion replays adjudged Haskell to have illegally collided with an Irish player. In the days that followed, Haskell spoke out against TMO, arguing that gasps of the crowd had influenced the referee’s decision and that repeated replays make contact seem worse than in real time.

High profile sporting events are already a battleground for brands vying to grab our attention. No doubt savvy marketers are already plotting ways they can exploit moments of TMO boredom to win our love. In-game advertising and mobile targeting will continue to grow and evolve which will no doubt impact on the way fans interact and engage with rugby and other sports in the future. But as we continue to discover at Stripe, targeted content must still be relevant and resonate with fans to make the message stick.

Live sport is one of the most compelling human experiences we have available, putting us in touch with our most primal emotions. While in-game technology has its place in sport, I worry what we stand to lose.

Sport is an ever-growing commercial arena, where accurate decision-making is essential. But the longer we are sent upstairs to endure endless stoppages in play, the less likely the sport will attract fans from new markets and ensure existing tribes are kept entertained.

Find the edge of your comfort zone and then jump

Find the edge of your comfort zone and then jump

A good friend once told me that life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

Wise words for a copywriter you might say, but particularly poignant in my current circumstances. This year I decided it was time to test my nerve by leaving the familiarity of home behind for a brand-spanking new adventure.

Now fear of the great unknown is a very normal human characteristic. We are wired to be risk averse. But is trying something new really all that scary?

The answer is of course, no.

In fact being brave and throwing yourself into what seems like uncomfortable experiences is the best thing you can do to develop and grow. It’s all about adapting to your surroundings (this is especially true as a PR).

Broadening my personal and professional horizons was a core motivation for leaving home comforts behind and joining the crew at Stripe.

I’ve always harboured the ambition to work with a team of adventurers – exploring new creative possibilities for inspiring change and doing things differently. And on the evidence of my first few weeks at the agency, the team strives to be bold with its ideas and brilliant in its delivery in all that it does.

Of course starting a new job is a unique and compelling challenge. Unfamiliar surroundings, alternative processes and different ways of thinking can be bamboozling at first.

But thanks to the warm welcome I received by my new creative partners in crime I’ve soon felt at home. A bag full of bounty and a haul of locally brewed ales obviously help.

However, it’s the friendly personalities of the team that make this new chapter in my PR story worthwhile. If the measure of a successful team is its people, then Stripe’s glass is more than half full.

Suddenly being out of my comfort isn’t all that bad. In fact I’d recommend it.

So be bold and dare to be brilliant. It’s the only way to earn your stripes.