In communications we constantly talk about the importance of clear, consistent messaging and a strategy allied to realistic goals, that makes use of carefully targeted tactics. We also encourage openness and the need to project a passion for the campaign, product or organisation.
These were all present in the campaign launched by footballer, Marcus Rashford in the summer which pushed the UK government into extending free school meals for school children over the holidays. Rashford showed himself a highly effective campaigner and I am sure impressed a huge number of people who couldn’t care less about football.
That success saw him made an MBE in the recent Queen’s Birthday honours list and many would have understood if at that point he had rested on his laurels and hung up his crusading cape to focus on the beautiful game. He had made a significant point and achieved a stunning success.
He could have stepped back and let his campaign and PR team continue the fight.
Fast forward to now, however, and he is very much back on the front foot at the centre of a campaign that has expanded its reach under the banner of #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY. Food poverty is not new as an issue, but it has rarely been so centre stage or capable of drawing such a broad coalition around it.
The campaign sees big corporates like McDonalds lining up alongside names like the Kingfisher Fish and Chips in Hull or the Rhubarb Shed Café in Sheffield. It has Labour and Lib Dem councils pledging their support alongside the Conservative London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Just as the Covid crisis has pushed devolution up the agenda, with elected mayors and devolved governments suddenly getting a huge share of the media coverage, so has the spotlight shone by Marcus Rashford forged an unlikely coalition of extra government agencies, individuals and companies. There’s a feeling of democratic release to be taken from an inspirational campaign amid all the gloom and fear. It has cut across some of the ground that has divided people over the past months and years.
From Ian Botham and elephants, to Ellen McArthur’s work on the Circular Economy and George Weah becoming president of Liberia, we are used to seeing sports people using their positions, platforms and money to raise awareness of important issues. But it feels rare in Britain to have someone so current, so young and so high-profile campaigning on something so apparently gritty, unfashionable and immediate.
He is passionate, he connects with ordinary people from all walks of life and he has a drive to change the world. And I at 51 am still wide eyed enough to hope he truly can.
Tim Read is a director at Camargue