It’s no secret that men’s mental health has been a long neglected topic of conversation, and as the UK Government revealed in 2022, suicide is the main cause of death in men under 50 in the country.
In light of this, the game and its wider communities have been increasingly vocal in trying to turn the tide.
Earlier this year, the Samaritans partnered with mobile network Three UK to encourage football fans to open up about their mental health through its sponsorship of Chelsea FC. Similarly, Nivea Men and Talk Club encouraged men to open up through the ‘Strength in Numbers’ campaign last year.
This week Norwich City FC took up the baton to coincide with World Mental Health Day. And, although it might not be the biggest club in the world – with the biggest reach – its campaign, in collaboration with the Samaritans, has sent ripples way beyond the game’s borders.
A disturbing piece of data guided the way – the average ticket holder for a Norwich City game is sadly the same average age as those men most at risk of taking their own life, according to the club.
This resulted in a public service announcement at last weekend’s Sky Bet Championship match against Coventry City, urging people to call the relevant numbers if they or somebody around them is in need of help and reminded everyone that 125 people die by suicide each week in the UK. The statistic rounds up to 18 people per day or one every 90 minutes.
Daniel Houlker, head of media and communications at the club, explained: ““We contacted Coventry and they agreed to follow us in posting the awareness table 90 minutes prior to kick-off.
“After agreeing with Coventry, we also reached out to the other 22 Championship teams, who all followed suit in posting awareness line-up graphics in the 90 minutes before, starting off with the Birmingham and West Brom game on Friday evening.”
To support the campaign, club sponsors Lotus Cars, Sekura.id, and Turismo de Gran Canaria all agreed to gift their sponsorship on the shirt’s front, back, and sleeve respectively, to raise awareness for Samaritans and the crucial support the charity provides.
The club then released a two-minute film – created in-house and published on Tuesday on the club’s social media –
featuring two friends at a Norwich game; one visibly more excited and extroverted than the other.
We see them in different scenarios – singing along with the crowd, cheering on, or sulking after a loss – however the energy between the two remains mismatched and the film ends with an unexpected twist, as text states: “At times, it can be obvious when someone is struggling to cope, but sometimes the signs are harder to spot. Check on those around you.”
The spot has now been viewed over 40 million times, taking the football world and wider community by storm, and continuing the conversation around men’s mental health that has been gaining prevalence in recent years.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Norwich City head of marketing Gavin Beard said: “The response [to the video] has taken us by surprise. Every additional impression that this video gets increases the probability that someone suffering with a mental health challenge will take the steps they need to take to get them onto the right path. We are incredibly grateful to the football community, but also the wider community that have liked and shared the film.”
He explained that the concept of the film was devised and executed by the in-house team, with no external agency support, the benefit of which was seen in the creative control the club was able to exercise on the project.
“We never claimed to be the experts in this subject matter,” Beard explained. “We are a football club with a hugely powerful voice in the community. So it was hugely important to partner with a charity that has far greater awareness. We spent a couple of months meticulously planning the concept itself with Samaritans, and working with them to ensure that the messaging was sensitive and appropriate.”
Ultimately, the film aims to show that suicide does not always have obvious signs.
Beard concluded: “We focused on the two personality types. One clearly more outgoing – one you’d deem the life and soul of the party with no mental health challenges. We wanted to guide the narrative that you’re likely to be less focused on the extroverted type because in your mind they’re okay. But it doesn’t matter what the personality type is. It’s important to check on those around you, no matter how they act day to day.”
So, what is the consensus around the Decision Marketing office?
Football often gets a bad press but this campaign is just one of numerous initiatives, many of which rarely get coverage; perhaps this works better because Norwich City aren’t always in the spotlight, although it is undoubtedly a highly effective and deeply poignant film.
Like many people, we too have been affected by this issue, so do your friends, family and colleagues a favour. Check in on those around you…
Decision Marketing Adometer: A ‘top of the league’ 10 out of 10