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Campaign Spotlight: You Are a Champion

By Caitlin Davies, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees


You Are a Champion was one of the standout children’s books of 2021. Written by Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford and author Carl Anka, this non-fiction title aims to promote positivity and resilience in young people. At the age of twenty-four, Rashford has undertaken several philanthropic campaigns in the public eye, particularly during the most difficult stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Carl Anka is a sports journalist, broadcaster and writer from London. Collaborating with Rashford, You Are a Champion (2021) and You Can Do It (2022) have become bestselling titles.


Born in Manchester, Rashford comes from a low-income background where he experienced first-hand the difficulties of food poverty. During the first UK lockdown, food poverty was strongly highlighted, with many schoolchildren unable to access breakfast clubs and free school meals. In light of this, Rashford partnered with UK charity FareShare and lobbied the Government to provide a substantial solution. He was awarded an MBE for his work and continues to work on this campaign, as well as aiming to tackle racism, social inequality and homelessness.


According to recent research, five children in a classroom of thirty are likely to have a mental health problem (The Children’s Society). During this challenging period, You Are a Champion aims to speak to young people experiencing unprecedented levels of adversity. The book focuses on how to “be comfortable with who you are, use your voice and stand up for others.”


Aligning with a Celebrity Brand


Macmillan Children’s Books have utilised Marcus Rashford and his celebrity brand to their advantage when creating the marketing campaign for You Are a Champion, from publicity engagements with the footballer to charity collaborations in his name. In the process of doing so this campaign perfectly demonstrates the importance of aligning your marketing efforts with the brand of the author. Through all his activism, Marcus Rashford has become identifiable as the footballer with a social conscience, looking to improve the opportunities available for children from working-class backgrounds like him. Complementing these values with different outreach programmes and charitable activities during the marketing campaign was a clever way to ensure that his personal voice and message were reflected not just in the empowering content of the book itself, but within the promotional campaign as well.


Macmillan Children’s Books partnered with WHSmith and the National Literacy Trust to gift a copy of every book bought in store to schools. Using the right marketing tools, this partnership was successful in encouraging members of the public to buy and gift as many books as possible to help children with little access to books hear Rashford’s positive words.


The partnership was also effective in providing event opportunities during the lead up to publication. Purchasing a copy of You Are a Champion with WHSmith, for example, also entitled you to a free ticket to an exclusive chat with Marcus Rashford and co-author Carl Anka in a virtual live stream. Meanwhile, ticketed events at independent bookshops also promised a chance to virtually interact with the football star while a portion of the event proceeds went to support sport programmes for kids. These events were a fantastic way to build buzz around the new release.


Powerful Messaging


The campaign for You Are a Champion has been highly praised, with the team at Macmillan Children’s Books being highly commended in the Children’s Campaign category at the Book Marketing Society Awards in September 2021. The judges praised the team for their “pitch-perfect branding” and “authentic message” which stayed true to Rashford’s values and work with grassroots organisations.


It may seem like You Are a Champion has been everywhere since its release in May 2021, and this is largely due to the volume of PR and publicity opportunities that have been attended by both Rashford and co-author Carl Anka. The book has been nominated for a variety of awards, winning both the Book of the Year at the Nibbies and Bestselling Sports Book of the Year at the Sports Book Awards. And from award-winning to bestselling, You Are a Champion was the feature of many bookshop campaigns from Waterstones to independent stores like Forum Books, who featured a cardboard cut-out of Rashford in their Be a Champion window where passers-by and customers could take the opportunity to “Stand With Marcus” and post under the #YouAreAChampion hashtag on social media. Some of the images posted by parents under the hashtag were then featured on the largest digital billboard in Europe on the side of Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse.


Macmillan Children’s Books have taken every opportunity to scream the praises of You Are a Champion and its follow-up You Can Do It, which was released this July. And what better time to promote a football star’s new book than during a major tournament. Following England’s loss to Italy at the UEFA Euro 2020 final on 11 July 2021, Macmillan took the opportunity to encourage young fans by posting the quote “never lose sight of who you are or what’s important to you” to their Instagram page with the book’s trademark orange branding.

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