As the conversation around women’s sport continues to gather momentum, Vitality is adamant its partnership with England Netball and its title sponsorship of the Vitality Netball World Cup means more than simply tapping into a culturally relevant conversation.
Instead, Vitality’s brand director Chrissy Fice says its philosophy is to boost participation and create a platform that has the potential to turn the Vitality Roses into household names.
“We are here to support and enable the growth of women’s sport, we’re not here to debit anything from the growth. We’re not looking at our investment in women and in sport through the spectrum of commercial gain,” Fice explains.
“We are simply following through with a core purpose that unlocks opportunities for more women to be involved in sport.”
Having only entered the UK market five years ago, Vitality has already established a partnership portfolio that features the Arsenal and Chelsea women’s football teams, as well as the England Cricket Board and England Hockey.
Last year, Vitality also extended its sponsorship of Netball England for another three years with the core purpose of growing interest and raising the profile of the sport and its players.
“Celebrating women and encouraging women to get involved in sport is just part of a journey we’ve been on for many years. And one we intend to carry on with for many years to come,” Fice says.
There’s a virtuous circle we’ve been able to achieve through netball. It’s a 360 model that begins and ends with participation.
Chrissy Fice, Vitality
“If we get it right it will have a broader impact on society as a whole and that is our philosophical reason to be involved in sport and be inclusive regardless of age, ability and gender.”
But getting it right requires investing in the right platforms and channels, in addition to remaining responsive and reactive to what happens on the court and then leveraging those contextually relevant conversations through marketing.
Fice explains that it is vital to be “ready and geared” in terms of reacting and responding to potential marketing moments as they arrive.
“We’re a challenger brand, a disrupter, and what that means is we have a very nimble approach to marketing. We can be incredibly responsive and opportunistic, which is hard-wired into who we are as a brand and how we develop marketing strategies,” Fice says.
“We’ve been able to innovate our approach rather than taking a cookie-cutter approach to it.”
In order to boost the profile of England’s national netball team, which is still riding a wave of success and increased awareness since it’s Commonwealth Games win in Australia last year, Fice says Vitality has produced a series of idents that will run on Sky Sports and feature three Vitality Roses netballers – Jade Clarke, Francesca Williams and Rachel Dunn.
As part of the partnership, Vitality is also running a #WeAreRising initiative designed to fund grassroots coaches. For instance, for every 100 goals scored during the World Cup and associated activations, Vitality will fund one person to obtain a level one coaching certificate through England Netball.
“The coaching initiative was the result of long discussions with England Netball into how we could make an impact. We were happy to arrive at a place where we could continue to make a contribution to participation for the long-term,” Fice explains.
“There’s a virtuous circle we’ve been able to achieve through netball. It’s a 360 model that begins and ends with participation.”
The coaches’ journeys will be shared via social media, which Fice considers to be the most important platform for the Vitality brand, but says they mustn’t overlook the power of broadcast.
“It’s unavoidable to highlight the value of social because it offers not just a broadcast platform but the opportunity for engagement. It allows us to hear what the fans are thinking and feeling,” she says.
“It’s all about harmonisation and taking an integrated approach where we are utilising the channels that give us a broad reach like broadcast but working on those digital social channels to create a language and a narrative and conversation.”
Fice concludes that increasing participation will be a key measure of success.
“[Participation] will be a measure of how far the successes of the tournament itself and the partnership go,” she adds.
The Vitality Netball World Cup starts tomorrow (12 July) and runs until 21 July.