Over half-term I took my 9-year-old son to the dusky pink city of Marrakech. In the 40 degree heat we ventured into the labyrinthian souks. We haggled happily for pretty lamps and magical cedar-wood boxes.
"Where are you from?", the store owners frequently asked. "I’m from Liverpool".
Two days prior to the Champions League final, this was the right answer! Their responses were animated and heartfelt in friendliness, even from the Moroccan Tottenham supporters. I was struck by the power of football to cut through the haggling, raise a genuine smile of human connection and perhaps it even got us a few dirhams off the price of our tagine pot.
On this Sunday, the 16th June 2019, I’m preparing myself to be moved by the power of football again, in a much more profound and important way. This time it’s the power of football to change the lives of children. At 7.30pm, Soccer Aid for Unicef will kick off the world’s biggest celebrity football match: 90 minutes of star-studded football fun, broadcast live to the nation on ITV and STV from Stamford Bridge London.
I care especially, because over the past seven months Red Bee Creative has been collaborating with Soccer Aid for Unicef. The brief was to develop a creative platform that would promote a landmark family entertainment event on ITV AND rally support for the children that Unicef work tirelessly to help AND inspire busy school-teachers to fundraise AND motivate families to participate, oh AND guide a refresh of their identity.
We needed a singular strategic narrative, within which there was scope and tonal flexibility to allow for tactical narratives, targeted to diverse audiences. We needed a laser-sharp and agile strategy to get Soccer Aid for Unicef match fit for 2019.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, or UNCRC, is the basis of all of Unicef’s work. The Convention has 54 articles that cover all aspects of a child’s life. The laser-sharp bit came from our focus on only one of these: Article 31, Every child has the right to relax, play and take part in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities.
A focus on the belief that every child has the right to play created an inherently Unicef-branded logical and powerful link between what is happening (the football game) and why I should care (the children): we play, so that every child can play.
This simple strategic link was authentic and accessible. It was motivating to players, fundraisers and families. Soccer Aid for Unicef had previously suffered from people not understanding why they should care, and the cause feeling nebulous and emotionally distant. But for parents, grandparents, teachers and coaches, the thought of children having a childhood without play brought the cause up close and personal: it was simply heart-breaking and a powerful trigger to act.
But we also needed to be agile, to apply our strategy against tactical initiatives for specific audiences. Stress-testing this versatility was critical: working with Unicef and ITV, we found that "play" could flex effortlessly from fun fundraising and galvanising participation, to making a serious point about its fundamental importance to happy, healthy childhood development and to society. Finally, "play" provided a uniquely Soccer Aid lens through which we can see all of the diverse work that Unicef does with children in the UK and around the world.
The new creative platform for Soccer Aid for Unicef is 'Defending play for every child'.
Thus, uniting everyone from school kids to celebs behind a shared intention and purpose.
We brought this to life with a refreshed identity inspired by the chalk markings of football tactic boards and children's playgrounds, adding warmth, joy and dynamism.
So, 7.30pm this Sunday, ITV: Soccer Aid for Unicef 2019. England vs The World XI.
Join lionesses Rachel Yankey and Katie Chapman, John Terry, Robbie Williams, Mo Farah … plus representation from One Direction, Love Island, Mrs Brown's Boys … Oh and my favourite, Martin Compston aka 'Steve Arnott' from Line of Duty.
Please do watch and donate.
Because a child's right to play is worth defending.
And it will be great telly.
Lisa Matchett, Head of Planning