International Women’s Week: Kate Bosomworth CMO at M&C Saatchi and Board Member of Sport England
An exceptional and energetic leader, Kate Bosomworth has worked in communications for almost 20 years. Having built one of the most successful independent sports PR agencies in the UK, Kate sold this first in 2012 to Writtle Holdings to create Speed Communications, then sold the larger combined business to an AIM listed Mission Marketing Group in 2014.
After almost 15 years at the helm of the agency, Kate stepped back from Speed in December 2016. Kate has been working with a select group of clients during 2017, focusing much of her time on the commercial development of women’s sport.
With a successful career which spans both commercial and political sectors, Kate has worked with a host of global sports brands and rights holders including Adidas, The Ryder Cup, UEFA, The North Face, Unilever, and GSK.
Appointed to the Board of Sport England in 2013, Kate has been board lead for the ground-breaking women’s campaign This Girl Can since 2014.
What does a typical day as the CMO at M&C Saatchi look like?
In a nutshell: very busy but never the same. It’s a new role, which is an advantage as I can shape it how I see fit. But I have to be careful to manage my time between the urgent and important – working in the business as well as working on it. However, 2 months in I’m still very much on receive mode. As you would expect my focus is to drive growth, which requires me to manage a host of work streams that are both external and internally facing. Lots of new business activity, shaping, and launching of new initiatives and events as well as managing our external communications.
It's important I am close to clients with respect to understanding their needs and that I maintain a close relationship with the key media within our industry and publishing platforms. This allows us to showcase our work, our talented team, and demonstrate our thinking. What is consistent is the open, energetic, and supportive environment here; it’s a buzzy place to be and I absolutely love walking into this building every day.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the sports industry?
I set up my own sports, health & fitness PR agency in 2003. I wanted to work in sport but not sports marketing and no one had combined these three areas within PR. The market was changing fast, with sports wanting to get ‘off the back pages’ and many FMCG brands wanting to leverage their health and wellbeing credentials or get in amongst the growing sports participation opportunities. So we hit the market at the perfect time with a pretty unique offer.
I didn’t see myself as pursuing a career in the sports industry per se, rather setting up a communications agency that could do amazing work in bringing these sectors together. That we ended up with clients such as Adidas, The Ryder Cup, and Unilever is testament to the strength of our offer and the way we worked, which was very different from other PR agencies.
I have always been passionate about ensuring anyone can have opportunities within sport, whether entering the industry as a career or taking part in sport at grassroots level. My time at Sport England has been and still is especially rewarding. Being able to help steer fundamental change across a sector for the benefit of millions of people is very motivating.
Can you tell us a bit more about the This Girl Can campaign? What’s the vision for the future?
This Girl Can came into being as a direct response to a very stubborn gender gap in physical activity levels. The campaign successfully addresses this and in doing so encouraged over three million women to be more active or start being active. Any campaign that seeks to create sustainable behaviour change in any sector or category has to disrupt the status quo and we did just that. It still amazes me that we could not find images of ordinary women exercising when we started researching for the campaign. The impact it has had on how other brands speak to women is also notable, so it has done a lot more than simply get women active; it has kept them active by changing their attitudes towards being active, which is a rare achievement in itself.
So here we are, three years after its launch and thanks to a huge online community of circa 800k women, it remains a vibrant, celebratory, and supportive community of women and girls, a major brand and a new mind-set for millions of women. Sport England is working with territories all over the world who either have or want to take up the license to use This Girl Can locally and there are conversations with potential commercial partners taking place. This Girl Can is here to stay, whether there is a major above-the-line or not, and I doubt there will be a shortage of smart brands who will seize the opportunity to become a part of it.
What piece of advice would you give an aspiring female founder?
The same advice I would give to any aspiring founder. Back yourself. Surround yourself with the right people who have skills you don’t but who do share your vision and ambition. I created a non-exec board very quickly as I felt it important I had a team to report to. If you don’t have one, find a mentor.
Don’t be afraid to try things, fail and try again. Be accountable, don’t take anything for granted and be honest with yourself. Be human and build a place where people love to work. Go the extra mile for them and they will for you. The same applies to your clients or customers – no matter the sector. And stop doing it when you don’t love it anymore. Life’s too short.
And finally, what does International Women’s Day mean to you?
This year of course there is great significance as it’s the 100 year anniversary since women (though not all) got the vote. It has gained significant prominence in the last five years, providing a focal point and a central stage for important discussions around gender equality and other important matters that affect women the world over.
It’s fantastic that there is now a well-established and recognised platform for discussion. It has forced many who normally wouldn’t, to listen, encouraged many to become a part of it, and that it now dominates the news agenda for the best part of the week is brilliant. I love that it brings many of us together to have important discussions. As the narrative around women develops over the next few years, then so will International Women’s Day.