How charities can learn from the ‘Right Behind Gay Footballers’ campaign

Laced Boot

By Patrick Nash

This week, as equal rights charity Stonewall launches a campaign addressing homophobia in football, promoting discussion around the issue and encouraging support for gay football players, I discuss how the charity has successfully used traditional methods of promotion with social media as the driving force behind it.

The campaign’s simple message of ‘Right Behind Gay Footballers’ is designed to kick start a change in attitudes and help the sport become more ‘gay-friendly’.

The campaign sees the charity teaming up with Paddy Power to send multi-coloured bootlaces to every footballer across all 134 professional clubs in the UK. Each player has been asked to wear the special rainbow laces in their club fixtures this weekend to declare their support for the campaign.

Players and fans alike have been asked to take to social media to show their support using the hashtag #RBGF, Right Behind Gay Footballers, during the week and in the build-up to the weekend fixtures.

What makes this campaign great?

Firstly, this is a big issue. The statistics speak for themselves. According to Stonewall, there are currently no openly gay footballers in the UK. There is also a requirement to stamp out homophobic abuse in the terraces after Brighton and Hove Albion’s Supporters Club complained to the Football Association earlier this year, citing abuse in over half of its games last season.

The campaign messaging is also simple, targeted, and combined with a great, and witty, strap-line:

We Don't Care Which Team

Partnering with online bookmaker Paddy Power allows the charity to promote its campaign across a number of social media channels, ensuring reaches a larger audience.

By allowing players to wear such a simple accessory Stonewall has tapped into two major media forces, television and social media. The Premier League alone has a global reach of 4.7 billion and the laces provide an easy way for professional footballers to display their support in front of this mammoth number of viewers.

The simple accessory also provides a visible prompt for discussion in the press and during broadcasts, taking the campaign from social media to traditional means like television.

In my July blog post, How can charities build a social media communications strategy?, I discussed the importance of a clearly thought out social media plan. Stonewall’s choice of a hashtag, and subsequently Twitter, as its primary social media platform is wise. This is because celebrities on Twitter, as well as players and clubs who Tweet their support, soon become brand ambassadors for the campaign, without the need for payment or complicated agreements.

Many players have already given their backing to the campaign, with the below tweet from Hull City’s, David Meyler providing a great example:

David Mayler tweet

Queens Park Rangers FC and Joey Barton also have tweeted their support to a follower total reaching nearly 2.5million users.


Although the focus of the campaign is on the weekend of 21/22 September, by promoting it in the week running up to the matches, it encourages supporters to feel they are part of its growth, creating a sense of ownership that should continue far beyond the initial week.

This integrated campaign demonstrates that by combining both traditional and social media platforms, charities can create and maintain a ‘buzz’ around their efforts.

Continued discussion on one platform, such as Twitter, can spill over with other platforms, such as television, following suit.

Charities should use Stonewall as an example, displaying how they integrate campaigns across social and traditional media. Creating a buzz doesn’t have to be costly. It just requires a bit of creative quirkiness, detailed planning, and ensuring that the campaign messaging is relevant and engaging to its audience.


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