#MARKiesAwards 2021 case study: Schroders SG succeeds in stirring up conversations around sustainability

Schroders Singapore, together with its agency, antics@play, secured the gold award for Most Effective Use - Content at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s recent MARKies Awards 2021. The duo partnered with three athletes to tell authentic and relatable stories through its campaign. Tapping into various strategies and incorporating a three-phased execution process, the team and the athletes brought forth the campaign with and achieved the objective of inspiring conversations and raising awareness of how individual actions can contribute towards building a sustainable future. The Schroders Corporate Responsibility page saw a 300% increase in site visits, with a 20% site visit bump to Schroders ISF Global Climate Change Fund page. Here's how the brand and the agency accomplished the objectives they set out. 

Challenge 

Beyond profits, financial institutions worldwide are now venturing into investment opportunities that incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. For Schroders, sustainability is more than an investment opportunity. It’s part of its purpose to make a lasting, positive impact in everything it does. Under this purpose, it showed companies how to operate sustainably while creating change in the industry. Schroders ran employee-led initiatives to support charities and organisations, and help those affected by the pandemic. It also promoted public education through thought leadership articles on its website and sustainability funds. Being a key player in the sustainable investment arena, Schroders wanted to educate investors that sustainability isn’t just an investment product, but an initiative that enriches communities and the environment while building a prosperous future for all. 

In May 2020, Schroders engaged antics@play to conceptualise and implement a campaign to shift the perception of sustainability. The objectives were to inspire conversations and awareness of how individual actions can contribute towards a sustainable future, and showcase Schroders’ focus and commitment to sustainability and related causes. The audiences include retail investors aged 25 to 55, financial intermediaries and institutions, and financial journalists. The timeline was from November 2020 to December 2020.

Under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations, sustainability encompasses areas such as poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. But oftentimes, the social and economic aspects are overlooked by the public. The first challenge then was to raise awareness of sustainability as a whole–not only environmental but also social and economic. The question is: How do we make it engaging and impactful?

Good campaigns start with discovering the mindset of the target audience. Quoting CNBC, Schroders said research suggests that retail investors are keen to invest with a conscience, and pay more attention to ESG, devoting time and effort to volunteerism, social cohesion, community support and public good. Citing research by YouGov, Schroders also said that retail investors are more conscious of consumption habits, especially food, and are looking out for ads that are informed (52%), warm (46%) and inspired (29%).

These discoveries helped underpin a few focus areas, inspiring the team's approach for this campaign. The creative idea was "Athletes x Activism". Although public awareness of sustainability is growing, that alone isn’t enough. It needed to spark conversations and drive action towards change. So it looked to the people who share that inherent sense of urgency and are constantly pushing the limits of what’s possible and achievable: Athletes. Why? The world of sports is filled with inspiring stories of endurance, perseverance, and achieving personal bests.

Where every day is a chance to do better than the last, and each moment is a chance to break the ceiling. Athletes don’t stall, they act. They are natural agents in creating change because they inspire us to do more and go after what’s important. They are consumers' role models. The campaign was hence structured around these role models and their sustainability causes. For them to tell personal, relatable, and inspiring stories to viewers, about what seems difficult at first but is nevertheless possible with a bit of elbow grease. This resulted in its key message: “Make an impact! For tomorrow, today.” The campaign hashtag #MakingAnImpact drove the point home, that everyone can contribute to making that future happen. For ourselves and future generations, and that is true wealth we can all enjoy. This ties into Schroders’ brand purpose of making a lasting impact in everything they do.

Strategy

The world of sports and advertising are filled with inspiring videos of superstar athletes. From Michael Phelps and Under Armour to Joseph Schooling and DBS, Schroders said they tend to be glossy, handsomely produced mini-cinematic masterpieces characterised by emotive slow-mos, voice-overs and a rousing orchestral score. The videos tell tales of courage, determinism and heroism. Stories about personal struggles and beating the odds. So how should the Schroders videos stand out? By going back to basics. Literally. For authenticity, believability and relatability. So instead of celebrity athletes, it collaborated with Sport Singapore to find everyday athletes that people can relate to.

After many discussions and evaluations, including scanning athletes’ social media accounts and media coverage for RTBs, it partnered three national athletes, Azurah Khalid, rugby player, and an advocate for zero food waste through her social enterprise Wilder; Lucas Ng, speed skater, and a volunteer at Engineering Good to provide underprivileged children with equal access to quality education; and Suhairi Suhani, track and field Paralympian, who also works with Singapore Disability Sports Council to inspire the disabled to chase their dreams.

These athletes were not paid or sponsored for their participation in the videos, but were chosen because they were game-changers for sustainability. Besides being accomplished in their own fields, they embody the determination, inspiration and will to drive change for their personal causes that are close to heart. With three videos and three personal stories, the campaign was anchored by the three videos, each a platform for an athlete to champion their cause. Besides a chance to go in-depth, this approach allowed Schroders to cover three sustainability issues, which is reflective of the brand’s holistic view of sustainability. With three stories, the team allowed more people participate in the conversations, and promote the visibility of not just environmental but also social and economic concerns. It was also conscious about not using athletes as corporate spokespersons or brand ambassadors, but to really let their stories, personality and agenda shine. It shouldn’t be Schroders’ stories or agenda; but Azurah, Ng and Suhairi.

That meant shifting the spotlight to the athletes' activism, initiatives and goals. Each video needed to take on a personal, intimate, raw and journalistic feel, comprising sports footage, interviews and personal vlogs. The interviews and sports footage were there to establish the athletes' background, passion, triumphs and hope for a sustainable future. While the vlogs’ purpose was to show their lesser-known sides, painting them not as superheroes but as everyday people making an impact in their daily lives, with themselves, their families, friends and professional networks. The vlogs form the heartbeat of these stories, and so Schroders let the athletes direct their own stories. To share the stories and speak to its target audience's moments of truth, the team adopted a digital-first approach, supported by Asia PR Werkz, consisting of a media strategy with three key pillars - partnerships, social media and website, also well as advertising.

Further to the Sport Singapore and athletes partnership, Schroders focused on devising a communication strategy. One that pivots on social channels for amplification of campaign assets and messages, namely, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. Besides driving reach cost-efficiently, some of these platforms gave Schroders the ability to target specific financial institutions and intermediaries with custom audience targeting. Because a more focused approach can yield better response, generating chatter and engagement among the desired target audience. A landing page was further created on the Schroders website. This #MakingAnImpact page features articles and Q&As with athletes, with the opportunity for the target audience to also read informative articles elsewhere on the Schroders website, or check out related funds if they’re interested. Thus, extending the conversation and understanding of Schroders’ broader sustainability efforts and commitments.

Execution

To keep the story as authentic as possible, and to build the campaign from the ground up, it went into production without a script. Schroders first conducted candid interviews with the athletes, exploring, their vision of a sustainable future, the connection between sustainability and their journey as an athlete, how they take action and how others can follow suit. The sessions were unscripted and unfiltered. It invited the athletes to then film two weeks of their lives, using their mobiles. It could be anything at all.

The only brief was to keep it real. At the end of two weeks, they sent in collections of raw selfie-style and candid mobile-filmed footages of them going about their day. From Suhairi practising long jumps even with a knee injury to Azurah cultivating her mini food garden to Ng teaching children to skate, these vlogs show an authentic and relatable behind-the-scenes life of an athlete-activist. Along with production partner The Magic Format, the scriptwriter and editor combed through hours and hours of footage to string together three narratives, supplemented by a few pick-up shots.

Individually, narratively distinct; but together, share a cohesive message such as Khalid promoting sustainable food use and growth, her mission against food waste analogous to a rugby scrum, Ng advocating equal opportunities for the poor, his efforts nurturing next-generation talents in both skating and school, and Suhairi championing inclusion for people with disabilities, taking a brave leap in his fight against discrimination by mentoring juniors. All three athletes highlighted the urgency of making an impact for tomorrow, today, and they shared how.

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With the videos created, it’s time for the campaign launch. It split the campaign into three phases, building intrigue, sparking interest, and deepening understanding of sustainability.

In phase one it built intrigue. It collaborated with Asia PR Werkz to promote three thought-provoking posts to attract interest. These posts contained interesting sustainability facts linked to each athlete’s cause.

 

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In phase two, Schroders sparked awareness and inspired action. It kickstarted the sustainability movement through a combination of advertising and influencer engagements. The videos were posted on Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. Followed by boosting on Facebook and LinkedIn. On YouTube and Instagram, it ran 15-second cut-downs to direct users to the full videos.

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Together with Asia PR Werkz, it refined and customised target audiences' profiles based on interests and past activity with the #MakingAnImpact videos. Ads were served on Facebook and Instagram to individuals interested in finance, investment, CSR, and sustainability. To strengthen its targeting approach, it also leveraged LinkedIn’s job targeting to direct ads to specific job positions, precise groups of financial intermediary, institutional clients and journalists. It also ran different optimisation strategies and ad variations based on what was returning the most views. By strategically using a mix of ad objectives (traffic, reach and video views), Schroders was able to find the “best fit” to suit its campaign needs.

Inspirational posts were also created to grab attention and lead people to watch the videos.

 

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The athletes then shared the videos on their social media platforms, widening the reach and enabling their teammates and friends to support the causes.

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In phase three it deepened understanding. Q&A articles about the athletes’ sustainable lifestyles and tips were created to further educate its target audiences.

 

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It retargeted ads on social channels using montage videos from the athletes’ vlogs to direct traffic to the Q&A articles.

 

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After reaching the Q&A sites, target audiences were led to the #MakingAnImpact landing page, Schroders’ corporate responsibility and sustainability pages to learn more.

 

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Beyond the public, it also permeated this campaign into Schroders’ corporate culture, instigating commitment and action.

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Results 

The campaign achieved its objective of inspiring conversations and raising awareness of how individual actions can contribute towards building a sustainable future. It also succeeded in driving traffic and engagement to Schroders’ digital platforms, showcasing the companhy's focus on and commitment to sustainability. An instant hit in less than a month, the videos achieved upwards of more than 300,000 impressions, clocking in 157,000 three-second views and amassing 50,000 minutes viewed. On Facebook, they garnered 71,000 unique viewers and outperformed all past Schroders posts, achieving two times the average view time.

On LinkedIn, video completion rates were between 7% to 9%, performing against the industry benchmark of 8%. But taking into consideration that each story is almost three minutes long, the videos can be considered to have run the distance and achieved great performance. The #MakingAnImpact campaign was effective in generating visits to the landing page too, with only a 10% bounce rate and 1:10 minute average time on page. During the campaign period, Schroders Corporate Responsibility page saw a 300% increase in site visits, with a 20% site visit bump to Schroders ISF Global Climate Change Fund page too.

The campaign ignited a landslide of conversations on social media. On Facebook, the company said all three videos achieved a 2% engagement rate, which was a huge success against the industry average of 0.45%. Advertising and sharing by athletes helped spread the word to a much wider community, with many leaving comments and sharing the videos on their own pages. The circulation of these videos also boosted engagement and inspired people, including Schroders' staff members, to take action by voicing out their sustainability efforts.

 

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The messaging on sustainability and association with Schroders were consistent at the forefront, raising awareness of Schroders’ sustainability initiatives and corporate culture.

Overall, #MakingAnImpact ignited a movement and challenged others to do the same. The campaign managed to weave three impactful and distinct athlete sustainability stories through multiple touchpoints, use the limited budget effectively in creative storytelling, production and media rollout, incorporate media strategy and optimisation across all platforms to speak to most relevant TAs, position Schroders as an enabler of sustainability initiatives, beyond just a fund house, and get investors to think about how their actions can make an impact, while being interested in sustainability funds (a bonus). Most importantly, it taught us that with bit of ingenuity, passion, and elbow grease, anyone can do a lot with the little they have.