Media response to Euro 2020 showed a glimpse of better days to come
Newspapers and advertisers showed their support when it counted after a difficult time for the country, writes the chief executive of Newsworks
I don’t know about you, but I feel immensely proud. Gareth Southgate’s England squad have behaved impeccably, both on and off the pitch.
In fact, they’ve transcended the game and reached way beyond football fans to leave an indelible impression on an entire nation – a nation that was, quite frankly, divided and downright tired.
They are the perfect role models for our children – in fact, for all of us, young and old. They speak up and call out. They take the knee in a stand against racism.
And I, along with millions and millions of people across the UK, are with them. It’s a shame then that the abhorrent behaviour surrounding Sunday night’s final has overshadowed the last few days. The racist attacks on the players, namely penalty takers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, are truly shameful and unforgiveable.
Speaking at a Newsworks and MediaCom event this week, The Times’ chief football writer Henry Winter said: “My heart dropped when we lost the penalty shoot-out because I knew what was going to happen.”
Winter went on to explain how he has huge “admiration for the players” who are both “good players and good people”.
This brings me back to pride. The way the country has wrapped its arms around the players to show its support has been extraordinary. The front pages of the national newspapers in the last few days sum it up perfectly, as always, from The Sun’s “We’ve got your back” to The Mirror’s “You inspire us”.
The image of Marcus Rashford’s mural covered in messages of love and support remains etched in my mind.
And it’s not just editorial – advertisers have been quick to show their support.
ITV’s ad (pictured, above left) in yesterday’s news brand titles sends a powerful message. The striking ad, in black and white, states "Together we will never lose" with an image of the team taking the knee.
There’s a real opportunity for brands to be purpose-driven around the current news agenda. BT’s ad today (pictured above, right), ‘Don’t let hate represent us’, is another perfect example.
Advertisers have been getting behind the England team, capturing the mood of the nation throughout the tournament. From Specsavers to easyJet, news brands have allowed brands to be tactical, fast-paced, agile, and dynamic. It’s the sweet spot of marrying the media and creative. And when it works, it’s amazing. Together, we really own the moment.
It’s in these times that people turn to journalism for expert insight and analysis. And this level of engagement and attention from readers means journalism has a powerful platform to inform people, to help ideas form, to influence opinion. Winter talked about how his job quickly jumps from the pitch to tell important stories off the pitch.
For him, the current generation of players represents something important. Noting the high social awareness and media literacy of the England squad, he told MediaCom that the close relationship that he and the wider press have with the players allows news brands to cheerlead campaigns and make their voices count, whether it’s Marcus Rashford’s free school meals, Jordan Henderson’s "Players together" campaign or Raheem Sterling speaking openly about racism.
Newsworks’ recent Come Together research found that 61% of people said news brands help to promote important campaigns that they might not have been aware of otherwise. For me though, it’s the statistic that 80% of people are keen to come together as a nation that rings true now.
It’s been a tough couple of years and I’m sure we’re all hopeful that we’re coming out of the other side – to a better, more tolerant, compassionate society.
The Euros gave a glimpse of better days to come, where we stood together united. United not just by the exploits of England on the pitch but united behind them off the pitch too, defiant against racism. Let’s continue in this vein.
Now, did someone mention a World Cup next year?