Fuelling participation and Anthony Joshua: an interview with Lucozade’s James Young

James Young, Lucozade Ribena Suntory’s head of partnerships, discusses the campaigns that are broadening the brand’s target audience, and shares his thoughts on the power of partnerships with marketable stars like Anthony Joshua and Harry Kane.

Fuelling participation and Anthony Joshua: an interview with Lucozade’s James Young

Earlier this year, Lucozade Sport released an advert in the build-up to British boxer Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title fight with Wladimir Klitschko, documenting the former’s tumultuous past as he prepared for the biggest bout of his career against the Ukrainian giant.

The short film, which was extremely well received in the UK, tracked Joshua’s humble beginnings in Watford, chronicling both his participation in sport as a young boy and his arrest in 2009. The clip also shows how the 27-year-old proceeded to get his life back on track, focusing specifically on his dedication to training before going on to win gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

That advert was a central part of Lucozade’s ‘Made to Move’ campaign, and Joshua’s story was one which perfectly mirrors the brand’s aim to inspire people to overcome their challenges and keep going. In the past, the company’s focus has been on providing its customers with a performance edge but it has since started to broaden its appeal, with an increased emphasis now on encouraging people to participate in sport regardless of the level of competition.    

As head of partnerships for Lucozade Ribena Suntory, James Young is responsible for defining Lucozade Sport’s partnership strategy, campaign creation and managing partnerships with the likes of the Premier League, the Football Association (FA) and the Virgin Money London Marathon, as well as brand ambassadors including Joshua, England soccer star Harry Kane and fitness influencer Emily Skye.

Ahead of his appearance at SportsPro’s The Brand Conference at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London on 28th September, Young explains Lucozade Sport’s recent strategy shift and the campaigns at the heart of it, discusses the process of identifying the right ambassadors and emphasises the enduring power of brand association.

As an endemic sports brand, is your target audience people who are active and working within sport or beyond it?

We call our target audience ‘sporty strivers’. It’s an even split between men and women, and we segment attitudinally. These are individual people who exercise in some shape or form twice a week and have the desire to make progress. The key word is striving, because these are people who are looking to be better versions of themselves.

In the past, the brand might have been about those that are looking for a performance edge but now we’ve broadened our appeal to say: ‘Whatever it is that you are trying to do and whatever your challenge is, we are here to help you.’ It’s not just about Sunday league soccer or marathon runners anymore, it goes much further than that.

Is it in Lucozade’s interests to encourage people into sport in a way that it might not be for other drinks brands? How does that change your marketing approach?

We made a statement last year that we want to get one million people moving more by 2020. As a result, athletes, partners and governing bodies that we work with are all asked to demonstrate how they can help us on this mission to get one million people moving more, so that’s front and centre of everything that we do with any relationship of any kind.

James Young, head of partnerships for Lucozade Ribena Suntory

What can you tell us about the Made to Move campaign? What is the thinking behind it?

The Made to Move campaign is the embodiment of what we stand for as Lucozade Sport. We believe that people were made to move and that our role in life is to help them because people want to progress.

Movement can come in many different shapes or forms, and whether it is riding a BMX or doing Zumba, we believe that fundamental movement is really important. And so much of what we do nowadays is about encouraging that movement, either through inspiring people to do more or actually showing them how they can improve.

We recently ran Made to Move sessions, which were live online workouts where people could work out with the likes of Anthony Joshua or Emily Skye, our fitness guru from Australia, at home or while in the gym. So Made to Move really underpins everything that we do and everything that we stand for, and working with partners like ‘AJ’, Harry Kane or Emily Skye where they fundamentally believe in that, too, makes for a great partnership.      

At The Brand Conference, you’ll be speaking specifically about building an athlete’s brand - namely, that of Anthony Joshua. How do you go about identifying the sports people you think will fit in with Lucozade’s values?

It all comes down to the objective you’re trying to achieve. There will be times that you are pushing for awareness, so you need to work with an athlete that has that level of visibility, such as a household name or a recognisable face that you can put on big displays in supermarkets to catch people’s attention.

If the objective of the campaign is content creation, and it’s about getting that content in front of the relevant audiences, your online influencers come into their own because they bring their own global audiences despite the fact that they might not be household names in the broader sense.

We want to make sure that Lucozade Sport plays an important part in their life and their training so the partnership is built on something genuine

Then we carry out a series of checks to determine whether they feel like an appropriate fit for the brand, whether they resonate with our target audience and if they bring credibility and have a genuinely authentic relationship with the brand. We want to make sure that Lucozade Sport plays an important part in their life and their training so the partnership is built on something genuine.

As a partner, how far are you responsible for contributing to an athlete’s public image? Do you play an additive role in that process or are you drawing on something that’s already there?

I think in reality you are drawing on something that’s there, but if you do clever, creative and powerful work you can add to it.

The TV advert we did with Anthony Joshua, for example, told a story that a lot of the world and the UK public had never seen. For all Joshua’s media exposure he was never going to be the one who told that story - athletes don’t make moving 90-second TV adverts about themselves - so a brand like us has the opportunity to act on what we think is a really inspiring story.

Lucozade released this advert in the build-up to Joshua's world title fight with Wladimir Klitschko as part of the brand's Made to Move campaign

Also, going back to what I said about getting people moving more, we felt that the inspiration behind a guy that overcame these challenges in his life and kept moving was a story that was fair for us to tell, and something that came back to what we exist for as a brand. The foundation of that piece is who Anthony Joshua is and the values he has, but then we also brought our lens to it as well.

What is there about Anthony Joshua’s profile that works for Lucozade?

We signed Anthony as an athlete, not as a boxer. A lot of his social following are people who are really interested in him as a person and what he does as an athlete to get ready for the boxing - they’re not necessarily boxing fans. Add to that a very easy-going and charming personality, you have someone who makes people sit forward and pay attention. He is a very humble and warm person that people can’t spend enough time with, really.

That was all a very important step in early meetings with his manager Freddie Cunningham - to spend some time with AJ and see what he’s like as a person, because it’s very easy to represent yourself in a certain way on social media or in the newspapers but it was really important to meet AJ himself and see what he was about. You instantly knew that everyone that would come into contact with him - whether it’s internal stakeholders, heads of major retailers, our staff or the wider public - were all going to really pay attention to whatever it was that he had to say.

How do you tailor your marketing to fit an athlete’s image? How is that process managed with Anthony Joshua’s team?

It’s all about authenticity. We would never ask anyone to be part of content or push out a message that didn’t sound like it came from them. So you have to be prepared to tailor creative, to tailor imagery, change the messaging slightly, and in reality allow AJ and his team the ability to phrase and present things in the way that they would. In the case of the TV ad we made we worked on the script with AJ to ensure it accurately represented his life and discussed all the detail, right down to the music track with him and his team to ensure it was just right.

When it comes to social media, we have a great relationship with Freddie and Iwan Llewelyn [Joshua’s social media manager], where we are able to tell them the sentiment of what we want to get across but then we leave it to them to decide the timing of when a post goes out, exactly how it is presented and the imagery that goes with it.

How has digital media changed your approach to working with athletes? Is there now a much bigger focus on the digital side or is it still equally important to carry out activations with fans?

Yes and no. There’s nothing like being at an event and seeing how people react to getting the chance to see their favourite athletes up close. We did a flash mob run with AJ in Hampstead Heath earlier in the year with only 24 hours’ notice, and 350 people turned up just to go out on a run with him. The energy surrounding it was brilliant. That’s a blurring of the two, because we used AJ’s social channels to publicise the fact that we were going to do that, but it was much more rewarding for his fans and for our target audience to see AJ in the flesh.

We did a similar one with Harry Kane where he led an evening of soccer coaching at a Power League in Vauxhall, where fans got to come down and play soccer with Harry himself rather than just watch videos or images of him doing these things.

So yes, I think fan activations are still important. It goes without saying that you can create all the content in the world but if you can’t get it in front of the right people it’s pretty much wasted or you will find yourself buying media impressions. Any sports star worth their salt now will be building their audience because that gives them value and some of the ones we work with are followed by millions, and that’s a much cheaper way for us to reach a lot of people.

How important is it to be associated with an athlete like Anthony Joshua? Do you think brand association still resonates with fans?

Yes, very much so. I think there are many ways that a brand can utilise an asset like AJ. You can use it tactically to drive sales and there are longer term, more strategic benefits as well. The success of the TV ad, the Made to Move sessions and other activations have led to a genuine change in how our brand is perceived, and that brand equity builds to the point where people change their buying behaviour.

So the right association strengthens the appeal of the brand and drives the brand’s relevance so they can be very powerful.

To find out more about SportsPro's The Brand Conference, and to register your interest, please visit sportsprotbc.com.