Interview: Inside the #BeSherida Announcement & Marketing Ajax Women

You can’t be what you can’t see. In current times, this saying is more accurate than ever. With increasing conversations around diversity be it in the workplace, public leadership roles and sports, the lack of role models for certain demographics is on a changing course.

One only has to read a few interviews with female football players to understand how big that lack is. Most of the stars we know today looked up to male players for inspiration. Now, they find themselves being the shining light for young girls to follow.

One club in particular is setting the pace through unique storytelling, AFC Ajax Women. Their latest campaign to inspire a generation is boosted by the signing of the Dutch National Team record holder for the most national team appearances (184 and counting), Sherida Spitse.

If you’ve followed some of Ajax’s content over the past few months you might think that Hollywood set up studios in Amsterdam. Graphically compelling content and elements of screenplay storytelling adapted to a football narrative. When it was time to break the news to the world that Sherida Spitse is an Ajax player, the creative was on fire.

In this interview with Lea van Breukelen, Ajax Women Marketer, we bring you the inner workings of the Ajax Women marketing team.

“Within the Marketing & Brand Partnerships department we have several teams: Ecommerce and database, Brand Partnerships, Concept & Design, eSports and Ajax Women. My focus is on Ajax Women full time. Other than myself there are a social media reporter and a full-time intern dedicated to the women’s team”.

When Future Meets Fire

The club’s positioning is based around three words “For The Future”. Ajax Women has its own marketing narrative which ties into that positioning. “At Ajax, we want to be the most iconic and successful club when it comes to inspiring and developing the legends of tomorrow. Ajax is creative, fearless, talented and we want to be the best, on and off the pitch. Good is never good enough. Everything we do is for the future. In educating talent, in creating new domains and in our marketing campaigns. These values apply to the whole club, including Ajax Women.” She says.

Based on that raison d’être, a campaign was born, #BeFire. “We created this campaign to inspire fans to keep going despite setbacks”. That campaign was launched with a video that also included a dedicated post for every player in which they shared their path and struggles along the way to become an Ajax Women player. “BeFire is being motivated, skillful, passionate, forever improving; it is about lighting your inner fire to overcome any obstacle and to pursue your dreams”.

The #BeFire campaign was the spark that ignited the next big creative work from the Media & Marketing teams, announcing the signing of Dutch star Sherida Spitse in the January transfer window. “In all our campaigns we aim to integrate our For The Future positioning and for Ajax Women, we wanted to include BeFire. This is the main starting point for the creative process.”

“We wanted to get to know her a little bit better and to know her thoughts about being “BeFire”. We showed her the BeFire campaign and her reaction was very positive, saying that it matches her mentality and “toughness” very well. She asked if we could include her two kids which was a bit of a surprise for us as many players rather keep their kids out of the media, but she is super proud of her wife and kids and she wanted to share this.”

Joining Ajax, her favourite club, was a landmark moment in Spitse’s career. Such moments require special attention. “We created the hashtag #BeSherida because Spitse is a true role model, a leader on the pitch, a record international, a winner and a strong personality. We combined Spitse’s story, with the positioning of Ajax For The Future and Ajax Women’s Be Fire.”

Opportunity+Ajax=Future Stars

Beyond celebrating Spitse’s arrival, the campaign around her conveys a message that embodies what Ajax Women is all about. Below the first team there’s an U17 team , and in a true Ajax fashion, players from that team earn chances to train with the first team and some have already made their debuts.

“Spitse, along with Stefanie van der Gragt, can guide them in their path to become the next stars of the team, and of course, we wanted to make the statement that you can also see the stars of the Dutch National team”.

“In the video you see Sherida walking away with her son; walking towards her new future with her future. Sherida is still very ambitious, she wanted to join Ajax to get better and win more titles. This really shows our definition of BeFire.”

Building on the momentum of the two campaigns the club recently created the #Dedicated content series in partnership with Ajax Women main sponsor ABN AMRO and Spitse is the star of the first video.

“As mentioned before, we want to create role models. You can’t create role models by showing football content only, fans have to get to know the players better. So that’s why we picked six players to share the story of their career so far and the sacrifices they had to bring to make it as a professional football player. It is about their dedication, their ambition to succeed.”

With a combination of a firm focus on the future and a burning desire Ajax Women will continue to inspire the next generation on and off the pitch. Light it up.

(Photo Credits: Ajax Images-Bastiaan Heus)

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