Grassroots Gem: LifeSkills Program created with Barclays

A term thrown around more and more today is “Grassroots” marketing, yet often times when asked for a definition, a surprising amount of professionals can’t give a decent one. The concept is actually not that complicated when you remove the “botanical” name and simply call it “Ground-up” marketing instead, because that’s exactly what it truly means. Rather than broadcasting their message or campaign on a broad scale, which still has its place in today’s marketplace to be sure, firms are on a more frequent basis seeing the value in focusing their efforts at a targeted, much smaller group of their target market that then spread the message like a wildfire throughout the masses via multiple channels such as social media, online review databases, and simple good old word of mouth.

However, social media and word of mouth aren’t the only successful grassroots campaigns available for companies to use. There are other creative ways of engaging with your target audience via joint value creation scenarios or programs like the Victory Project that just started this season at Sporting Kansas City, which is a fantastic example of a grassroots take on community involvement and engagement (Click here for the Business of Soccer Spotlight on the program).

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Another great non-traditional example of a grassroots campaign in the world of soccer is the new LifeSkills Program from Barclays. The program is a partnership between businesses, teachers, and parents in the United Kingdom that aims to better prepare young teens aged 14-16 for the professional world via classroom curriculum, workshops, and real on the job training and experiences.  LifeSkills launched last Thursday, May 2nd, a competition that allows teens enrolled in the program to compete for  a host of prizes including the chance to work with West Ham United Football Club, Karren Brady, according to a recent article from FC Business. The article stated that “over a thousand teachers, and over a hundred leading businesses including McDonalds, Centrica, ISS and Waitrose, as well as many smaller businesses, have already joined the LifeSkills programme.”

Karren Brady was quoted in the article about the launch of the competition and her involvement as a LifeSkills Ambassador, saying this:

I couldn’t have got to where I am today without the work experiences I had early on in my career. They taught me what I was good at and the skills I needed to get ahead.

It’s why I’m excited to be launching the Work Experience of a Lifetime competition today so that young people can access amazing opportunities to learn from some of the most successful people in business. They’ll find out what it takes to do well at work and I hope be inspired with what they could do in the future.

The LifeSkills program offers teachers, parents, and students all the resources they would need for success, including downloadable curriculum for teachers to help build lesson plans for their students. It’s truly a joint value creation scenario for all parties involved, for several different reasons. The students obviously benefit from the work experience and skills learned from the program’s curriculum that will help them when they enter the workforce. The businesses get great exposure, as well as free labor during the extent of the student work experiences, and hopefully they make a good impression on the students such that they would want to come back when they are looking for their first career jobs – attracting talented young professionals that they know have been through a well-developed program and already have a foundational working knowledge of their company.

It’s also a great scenario for clubs like West Ham FC in the U.K. that have people involved like Karren Brady. It’s a great and inventive way to get involved in the community and shows good development relative to corporate social responsibility. But it’s also a great way to engage with a specific group of their target audience (teens) and create an extremely positive interaction and experience for them and the club outside of the norm, and they will then remember that for the rest of their lives. Even if they never go to a match after going through the program, West Ham FC will have gained “brand ambassadors” for the club that walk the streets of the masses, and they will spread positivity around the club to everyone they speak to about their experience with LifeSkills. People underestimate the power of word of mouth, and this program is a great way to ensure people talk about your business in a positive light, to which you can’t assign an ROI – it’s priceless.


Reporting on the business side of the world's game.