In June 2020, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a U-turn on his government’s refusal to provide free school meal vouchers for poor children over the summer holidays. The climbdown was not the result of any pressure from opposition parties but in response to a social media campaign led by Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford. The 22-year-old has subsequently launched his Child Food Poverty Taskforce backed by major brands and petitioned the government on a series of measures to tackle food poverty in Britain.
Rashford is just one of a crop of athletes exploiting their profile and platform to speak out across multiple social and political issues. WT Intelligence spoke with Matt Rogan, co-founder of sports consultancy Two Circles, and non-exec director of several businesses in professional and performance sports who has noted the rise of “athletes becoming media platforms in their own right and [..] a meaningful force for good” during the pandemic. Rogan points in particular to Rashford’s savvy in driving his campaign via social and digital channels as key to its success.
Along with social media, athletes are leveraging pre and post-competition photo opportunities to ensure their message gets maximum attention.