I first met Sophia Warner, the British Paralympic sprinter, in early 2011 and offered my services as a marketing and communications consultant on a voluntary basis.
My objective was to get her message across to key stakeholders, particularly potential sponsors (who could support her financially in her quest for a medal) and potential employers (who might offer her an interesting role after the Paralympics were over).
This case study has several parallels with the mortgage broking market, where many small business owners need to get their message across – in a very crowded marketplace – to their existing and potential clients, business partners and lenders. And they need to do it cost-effectively.
Sophia’s is a compelling story; medal-winning international athlete who just happens to have cerebral palsy, training 30 hours a week on the track and in the gym, mother of two young children, with a full-time career in marketing and business development.
The challenge was how to communicate these ‘unique selling points’ (USPs) without spending any money, something with which many mortgage brokers will be all too familiar.
The answer was to construct a simple website to contain all her key information and then use social media and targeted email marketing to share information with a variety of stakeholders at virtually no cost.
Social media and email marketing activity
A personalised email is sent from Sophia to her segmented database of contacts whenever there is something relevant and interesting to say, for example, when she signs new sponsors, appears at events or receives coverage in the press.
The parallels with a mortgage broking business are obvious; the business may have signed new business partners to improve its overall customer proposition, it may be hosting a seminar or attending an event – or it may have been featured in the trade, local or national press. But the business’ stakeholders may well be unaware of one or all of these things unless there is a regular and planned digital communications strategy in place.
The aims of Sophia’s digital communication are to:
1. Keep her supporters and sponsors involved in what she is doing
2. Generate opportunities to speak to the media
3. Find new sponsors who can help support her in her quest for medals (now focused on the IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France next July)
Sophia uses Facebook (where she now has 617 friends) to post new photos of her in training and at events and Twitter (1,734 followers) to tweet short updates and news flashes on the many aspects of her life.
These tweets – which often refer to her sponsorship work, with regular mentions for all the companies that are supporting her – are linked back to the website whenever relevant. Every time she posts or tweets, a series of interactions with her stakeholders is initiated, often resulting in new opportunities for her.
Sophia is supported by the following sponsors: Procter & Gamble, Virgin Active, Boots and Simplicare. She has also been appointed vice-president of The Children’s Trust at Tadworth, a charity close to her heart as it was there that she received specialist treatment and therapy as a child in the 1980s.
UK Athletics appointed Sophia as its commercial director with effect from October. She is only a few weeks into this high profile role, but is already making progress towards securing new sponsors for UK Athletics.
She has also been in talks with various TV channels about providing expert analysis for Paralympic sports programmes in the future.
With the media, sponsors and fans continuing to take an interest in Sophia post London 2012, you are sure to hear more about her in the months to come. Why not take a leaf out of her book and get your voice heard.