THURSDAY 26 SEP 2019 3:01 PM


Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics next summer, Team GB has kicked off its year of Games-related communications with a punchy launch video. Brittany Golob reports on the team’s storytelling and campaigning objectives around the 2020 Olympics

It’s no secret the UK is divided. And not just in the usual ways. But, Team GB, which unites England, Scotland and Wales, is also working to unite the country behind its Olympic athletes ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Games.
To launch its pre-Olympics campaign, Team GB released a film called ‘(Only) One Year To Go,’ which began what will be a year of communications about the Tokyo Olympics and Britain’s athletes. The film doesn’t shy away from voicing the schisms in British society, but without condemning them or promoting any particular position. “Red sauce or brown?” it asks, “In or out,” in a well-crafted, playful tone of voice.

Instead, the campaign is working to unite the British Isles in the same way it unites its athletes every two years. “The nation has, for a variety of reasons, perhaps been more divided in recent times than it has in living memory. But actually, there’s still a lot to celebrate,” says Scott Field, Team GB’s director of communications. “It was less about trying to be provocative and more about us just refocusing on the things that make our society and make Britain proud.”

He points to the team itself as a prime expression of the positives in British society, from diversity of location or religion to LGBT+ inclusiveness to an even male-female split. This multilateral diversity should help Olympic viewers connect with Team GB and its athletes. It makes the team relevant to a modern society. That message is echoed in the film, which calls on viewers to unite behind a united team, to celebrate with athletes known and unknown and to bring the spirit of the Olympics back to Britain for two weeks next summer.

“It doesn’t really matter to us what your point of view is on anything. We want everyone to be respectful to each other. But there is a lot to celebrate in our team and there’s something for everyone in Team GB,” Field says.

The film is visually arresting too, using bold, multicoloured headlines superimposed on strong images to communicate these key messages. It uses a playful humour and emotive imagery to evoke a sense of national pride and unity – if only to support some of Britain’s greatest athletes.

By contrasting strong statements with engaging, emotive imagery, the film acknowledges the national mood while igniting the spirit of the Olympics. Drumming up support for the united team Great Britain sends to the Olympics every year, the film sets the tone for what will be a yearlong campaign.

The video launched on 24 July, though, the same day Boris Johnson was sworn in as prime minister. Not a great day in terms of news cycle. But, that hasn’t slowed Team GB down. The campaign is centred around the strapline, ‘Believe in extraordinary,’ and will continue to support the athletes heading to Tokyo until the Games begin.

The ultimate goal is to unite the nation behind the team and to allow the athletes to share their stories, building a new generation of heroes, Field says. “That’s the job for us. To give Olympic sports, to give Olympic athletes a platform to tell their stories and to showcase their incredible credentials and achievements. That’s what you’re going to see over the next year.” The campaign will work toward this objective by sharing athletes’ stories across the Team GB platforms. It will also work in partnership with other national sporting bodies, like UK Sport, and the individual sports federations to ensure content is shared as widely as possible.

“It’s tough to secure and hold the media agenda on any given day,” Field says. “Particularly when we’re in a nation that has some really professionalised and dominant sports. For Olympic sports, it’s kind of hard to punctuate that.” That’s where Team GB comes in, to help coordinate between the interested organisations and individuals and the media, to be able to deliver newsworthy and valuable stories. Field, however, doesn’t see this as a limitation, but an opportunity. It will enable the storytelling to unwind across a variety of channels to different audiences. This relies on a creative use of content and a master hand at seeking out relevant stories.

To do so, Team GB is working with its communications partner Hill+Knowlton Strategies throughout the year.
The film calls on Britain to take note; to unite. It says, “One year today we’ll be less worried about what makes us different, and more interested in what makes us the same. For 17 glorious days, we’ll be standing side-by-side cheering on familiar faces and names we’ve never heard. Huddled together in offices, pubs, schools and living rooms. Watching as a group of athletes, become one extraordinary team. Finally, something we can all agree on.”

But the film is not the end of Team GB’s Tokyo push. It’s what Field calls ‘a campaign within a campaign.’ It was launched with a manifesto in the form of a newspaper wrap, featuring the same copy from the film with another key message: remember London 2012. “Remember that amazing summer of London 2012? A time when we felt truly like a United Kingdom. Coming together to witness incredible feats and history-making performances by a group of athletes who made us proud to wave the Union Flag and proud to be British,” the manifesto reads.

Throughout the year, further dates of note will see more storytelling and more activations. “The first bit was about awareness,” Field says. “The next bit is about excitement.” The 300, 200 and 100 day marks will offer more opportunities for communications. Another moment of note will be in October, when the individual sports federations will begin announcing their Tokyo teams. It may also be the first time a British Olympic team is comprised of more women than men, offering a key element to the diversity storytelling ahead of the Games.

“I think everyone indulges in the Olympic Games. For two weeks, it’s such a wonderful pause from everything else we’re used to feeling. It just feels so different, doesn’t it? We all allow ourselves a chance to engage over two weeks with sport and athletes that we just don’t hear enough of at other times,” Field says. Throughout the next year, Team GB will try to evoke that feeling. It’ll try to get everyone to indulge a little; in the Olympics and in uniting behind Britain’s athletes.