Tag: Seb Coe

The optimism of action


It was back in 2005 that I launched the Marketing Society not-for-profit group – a small thought leadership group for charity marketing folk. The Marketing Society backed the new group and have been stellar supporters ever since of charity and cause related marketing. Little did I know then that the Society would honour me with a Fellowship all these years later. I have admired previous Fellows, and secretly each year at the ceremony, wondered how they managed to achieve their awards…

Receiving the award was a good moment to reflect on the charity sector and the work we’ve done. Above all else, the thing that stands out most is the real passion people in those organisations have for their causes and for making a difference. This, to coin the words of Greenpeace, has often meant “stopping wrongs”, which is not a bad thing to say about your day job!

A redefined Marketing Society vision is also more hands-on and about making a difference in your work; “inspiring bolder leadership” including the work to support sustainability and good causes.

Charities have also taken a long hard look at their visions to meet the needs of today’s demanding supporters who want more transparency and greater action. Macmillan are about supporting and being there for the journey with cancer, Oxfam are about changing lives for the better – lifting people out of poverty. Charities have become more action oriented around fewer issues, which is a good thing. Passion and leadership doesn’t have to come from the global North.  Companies like Unilever with their 5 Levers for change and the Fairtrade Foundation, addressing sustainability and poverty, have found that people care as deeply about sustainability in emerging markets such as China and Brazil, and these countries now bring great leadership and inspiration to the table.

And organisations like Amnesty have relocated their resources to be closer to where human rights abuses are happening.  There is no point in standing on the edge of the issue. I remember Blake Lee-Harwood at one event, Greenpeace’s then Director of Campaigns, telling us how Greenpeace ‘practiced what they preached’. Still guided by the words of one of the early founders, Harald Zindler – “the optimism of the action is better than the pessimism of the thought”. Today all members of Greenpeace staff are expected to ‘stop a wrong’ or to try and ‘replace it with a right’. It is simplicity and passion at work. Take their fight against Lego partnering with Shell, who are battling to dig up the Artic, and you see the same approach at work. Seb Coe talked about his role in bringing the Olympic games to Africa, one of his stated dreams, at a Marketing Society hosted evening. His vision is to make health and sport a part of everyone’s life and normalise disability in sport. I hope that the Marketing Society continue to play a pivotal role in inspiring people to see optimism and opportunity in life changing action.

Whatever happened to all the heroes – Seb Coe

Seb is humble as humble can be. He is the Ronnie Corbett of sport, telling the best stories about the 2012 Olympics, which he led from start to finish. I’m probably not alone in saying I would have been happy to hear him speak all night at last night’s Marketing Society Annual Conference where he regaled us for an hour. He was joined on stage by the equally affable triple jumper, Jonathan Edwards, whose 18m world record for triple jump record still remains unbeaten.

Sitting listening on the back row, with hundreds of people in front of me in the wonderful Royal College of General Practitioners Theatre, I realise in my view that Seb Coe embodies everything that makes up a truly modern leader.

Humour and proportionality
He balances laughter and humour, in the face of impossible tasks, in this case of reaching the games finish line at the start of their seven year journey.
It was pleasure to witness the lively banter between Seb and Jonathan, who obviously hold each other in high esteem. He quotes former PM from the 1900s Arthur Balfour “Nothing matters very much and few things matter at all” as a reminder to keep things in perspective. He said the delivery was way more funny than the BBC’s ‘2012’ series. The epilepsy causing logo film, the cabbies complaining about traffic, the lost bus, the red lights turned to green (yes really), and the ticketing.

He understands the importance of his team. Having the best team – but not the obvious choices, no boring Olympic lifers, but people at the top of their game. Seb has built a loyal and strong team around him. I saw the way his face lit up when he greeted David Magliano, who was Director of Marketing for London 2012 and was pivotal in delivering the ‘why’ we’re doing the Games. Seb mentioned David more than three times in his speech.

He said his father was his biggest most inspiring character in his life, which is something given all of the sporting heroes Seb could have chosen. Proof that family is his main frame of reference – ‘his other team’.

I was intrigued by this lone runner – trained by his father (often himself using new and unusual techniques) – who was suddenly in a ‘team sport’ with hundreds of people around him, and seemingly enjoying every minute.

He heaped praise and glory on the close-knit team that made the games happen. He holds in disdain the ‘Armada of instant experts’ who turned up and the mass “glorification of the uninvolved” who mostly didn’t want the games in the first place.

The (K)night’s lecture was about much more than about sport. In fact sport wasn’t mentioned much at all. It was about a way of doing things. Not Seb’s way but his team’s way.

Their vision was the bedrock they returned to when making all their decisions.
For a Grantham born and bred man who calls a spade a spade, he didn’t mince his words about where he sees logos and all that stuff. But clearly he does see value in brand and comms – which was of great interest.

Hard work
Seb finally slept a full night’s sleep on 10 September 2012 without waking up in the morning worrying about ‘winning the bid’ or delivering the games. This man creates loyalty and inspires those around him to go that bit further – to work day and night without questioning. It is no surprise that he was instrumental in delivering the Games maker programme, which drew in medics and cabbies.

Seb is somebody who has the grace and strength to recognise his own shortcomings, to not to take himself too seriously, and at the same time to win over the many serious heavy-weight partners (and the challenges that were thrown at him day and night).

I’m sure he was wasted as an MP. There were a few cheap calls for him to run for PM. That’s wrong in my view. He is a people person. At his best delivering some of the world’s biggest themes. Here’s to his role in bringing the games to Africa, one of his stated dreams. Here’s to him continuing to make health and sport a part of everyone’s life. Normalising disability. And here’s to him leading when it comes to supporting low-carbon planet healthy games. Seb is a hero.