Winners 2023

Best corporate partnership

#Merky FC
adidas and #Merky
Agency: Hope&Glory

Just 0.012 per cent of young people who set out to be professional footballers make the cut. Many of these potential stars are from Black and Black Mixed-race heritage communities, and, sadly, when their dreams don’t come true, their association with football comes to an end. There may be diversity on the pitch, but it is lacking in the wider football industry.

Adidas was keen to demonstrate its authority by pushing for change to make the industry more inclusive. The football brand partnered with #Merky Foundation, a charity founded by Stormzy, which has pledged £10 million over ten years to organisations that are committed to tackling diversity, to launch #Merky FC.

#Merky FC is bringing together a coalition of like-minded businesses from across the footballing community to help Black and Black Mixed-race heritage people into football-related careers.

Agency Hope&Glory worked with FARE (Football against racism in Europe) and conducted an in-depth study of the industry, which revealed that, while 56 per cent of young people with a Black or Mixed heritage background aspire to a career in the sector, just 6.7 per cent of senior roles in football are held by people from their community. Yet 39 per cent of players on the pitch have a similar background.

A central hub, MERKYFC.COM, was also created to promote job opportunities to people with a Black heritage, with the strapline Changing the Game. At launch, it carried roles from 11 partners, including adidas, Sky Sports and Manchester United, but within a year the number of allies had risen to 50. There are also plans to host guides to help young people successfully find roles.

The campaign launched with a social-first film, which was shared across adidas’ and Stormzy’s owned channels, including X, where the artist has more than 1.4 million followers, and Instagram, where he has three million, before it went to editorial media.

An exclusive interview with SKY Sports played throughout the launch day, reaching a core footballing audience, while the media strategy focused on youth lifestyle titles, national sports channels and more traditional media.

The campaign generated 30 articles on national print, online and broadcast news channels, including Capital FM and The Guardian, and a further 43 pieces of coverage across lifestyle titles, such as GQ, Rolling Stone and SportBible.

The launch film was viewed more than 1.4 million times on Stormzy’s channels, and in excess of 250,000 times on adidas’ channels, generating more than 200,000 engagements. Many footballers, including David Beckham and Ian Wright, also shared the film. Beckham’s action generated a further 5.3 million views.

More importantly, the campaign generated more than 35,000 visits to #Merky FC website in its first week and more than 2,000 applications were received for roles advertised on the site. In total, 15 roles were filled. The ambition for year two was to advertise and fill 50 roles.

The judges described this as a ‘great partnership’, adding that there was a strong connection between both organisations and very clear objectives about its goal. They were impressed by the short- and medium-term results, but recognised that ‘with support, this will have a positive long-term impact’.