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The importance of quality athlete and charity relationships

The essential work carried out by charities is dependent on public donations. Therefore, an important part of most charities’ marketing and fundraising strategy is utilising ambassador connections to help spread the work of their unique mission.

A badly managed relationship can be more of a hindrance than a benefit, and this article touches on the important aspects of good quality relationships.

Athletes are commonly asked to become charity ambassadors, and it is a relationship that can be of mutual benefit when managed correctly. The charity will benefit from the athlete, because any successful athlete will have a large following from a strong fan base. The athlete will benefit from the charity, because it will be perceived as positive to followers that the athlete is willing to give up their time to support a charity.

Jessie May, a charity that supports children and young people with at-home nursing and respite care, recently appointed Laura Tomlinson as their ambassador. Currently Jessie May supports around 190 children and their families across the southwest.

Jessie May has been providing free specialist at home care since 1996, but without the help of ambassadors such as Laura Tomlinson, raising much needed awareness and donations, they wouldn't be able to continue this essential service.

Laura Tomlinson is a double Olympic medallist and is a well-known athlete in the equestrian sector with a large following across her social media platforms. Laura has both Instagram and Facebook, with a total of 45,000 followers across both platforms. This substantial following provides Laura with a powerful voice to reach more people and address topics she holds close to her.

Laura is a proud ambassador for children’s hospice at home charity, Jessie May. As a mother of four, Laura understands the importance of the work that Jessie May does for the children and families they support. The connection between Laura and the charity was based initially on her instinct as a mother, being moved by the stories of Jessie May's children and their families. Laura hopes to widen the audience that Jessie May currently has by leveraging her platform as an international athlete.

“I am so delighted to be an ambassador for Jessie May and to support the incredibly important work they do. The support they provide to children and their families through such difficult times is invaluable. I hope that with this partnership, I can help widen Jessie May’s audience so that more people can see and support their wonderful work.”

Jamie Whear, Interim Head of Communications at Brooke spoke about the importance of their company's relationship with influential figures. Brooke works closely with Olympic Dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin, who is their Global Ambassador.

“Having relationships with these influential public figures is beneficial and important to us. They have helped us through attending and speaking at events, fundraising, and sharing stories about our work on social media. This has helped Brooke reach thousands of new people that we would never have reached without their help.”

Athletes can be particularly effective ambassadors for charities for several reasons:

  • Broad reach: Athletes have a broad reach and appeal to diverse audiences. They have a large following on social media platforms, and their involvement in charity events can generate significant media coverage.

  • Inspirational role models: Athletes are often seen as role models and can inspire others to get involved in charitable causes. They can encourage people to make a positive impact in their communities, whether through fundraising or volunteering.

  • Personal connections: Athletes often have personal connections to the causes they support. For example, a soccer player might support a charity that focuses on providing opportunities for underprivileged youth to play sports.

  • Credibility: Athletes can lend credibility to a charity and its cause. Their involvement can signal to the public that the charity is legitimate and trustworthy.

  • Fundraising: Athletes can help raise significant funds for charities through events such as charity matches, auctions, and fundraisers. They can use their platform to encourage others to donate to the cause.

A key factor for success in an athlete/charity is a genuine link between the star and the charity's mission. The athlete needs to have a passion and belief in the work the charity does.

In January 2023 Ovarian Cancer Action began working with Beth Mead as one of the charity's ambassadors. Beth Mead is a professional football player having been part of the Lionesses victory at the 2022 Euros.

The facts about ovarian cancer;

-Ovarian cancer is the UK’s deadliest gynaecological disease, claiming the life of another woman in the UK every two hours.

- Ovarian cancer kills more women in the UK than womb, cervical, vulval and vaginal cancers combined

-Ovarian cancer can affect women of all ages

-One in four women mistakenly think their smear test will detect the disease

-Symptoms are often mistaken for less serious conditions like IBS

With facts like these it's so important for the charity to raise awareness and empower people to take action. The large following that celebrities, athletes and TV personalities have can be a massive help to inform people of the issue and what the charity is doing about it, such as research into better tests and treatments that could be lifesaving.

Beth Mead became an ambassador for Ovarian Cancer Action in January 2023 after her mum unfortunately passed away from the disease.

“I first teamed up with Ovarian Cancer Action when I designed a Christmas Card and wanted to donate to a charity. It was a nice introduction to Nick and the team. My mum was a part of the Christmas Card process and helped with the design and the chosen charity. As mum’s condition became worse, our family became so aware of the reality for women with ovarian cancer and the need for more research to help women like my mum. It is still a fatal cancer disease. The stats that I now know are terrifying and also very sad for anyone with ovarian cancer to cope with. When mum passed away, the first thing I decided was that I wanted to help Ovarian Cancer Action in my mum’s memory. I wanted to do something good to help raise awareness but more importantly to raise money for research so that we can find a cure for ovarian cancer. I’m delighted to be able to help through things like Walk In Her Name and other great things that Ovarian Cancer Action have planned for me. As an athlete, or indeed any person with a social presence, it’s important that we use our profile for good. I receive so many requests to support charities and it’s just impossible to do this. I made the decision that my time would be best spent working with one charity and as Ovarian Cancer Action is so close to my heart, I was delighted they also wanted me to work with them. I look forward to the day when we have a cure for ovarian cancer to ensure other women live a long life and other families do not have to endure the pain we did when we lost my mum. All of my work with Ovarian Cancer Action is for my mum, and I know she would be proud of me for being an Ambassador”.

Nick Wright is Head of Brand and Marketing, Ovarian Cancer Action

“Only 44% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer live beyond five years. So, sadly, the number of spokespeople living with the disease is very low. We rely on friends and family who have lost loved ones to speak out, and celebrities and sportspeople, with those authentic stories, give us huge reach and visibility that we wouldn't normally achieve.

Working with Beth has been massive for us. When we met, we knew her mum had advanced ovarian cancer, and the prognosis was not good. So, while the opportunity to work together was exciting, our priority was Beth and her family, and to ensure she felt supported and there was no pressure.

While there’s such huge potential for a partnership with a celebrity like Beth and the platform and profile they have, this often spawns from a tragic and difficult situation. Sadly, Beth’s mum passed away in January 2023, and Beth admirably focused her time on working with us, creating a fundraising page for her mum, and officially becoming an Ambassador for Ovarian Cancer Action. Everything came together quickly, and the response to the partnership was incredible. But we were and are very aware that Beth is grieving and will have good days and bad days. We will check in with her team around what she’s comfortable doing and if we ever need to change or slow down on something. We care about her and her family, so we want to make sure we’re here for them, as well as helping her and her family do something rewarding and memorable to honour her mum. The impact of having Beth as our Walk In Her Name Captain has been amazing. We’ve raised over £190k and counting (over double what we raised in 2022), and the stories we’ve seen and tributes to mums, daughters, sisters and Beth's mum have been wonderful. And it’s been great to hear the impact that has had on Beth and her family, and how the women’s football community – clubs, supporters, players – has rallied behind this. That’s energised Beth to want to keep doing more to support, because she can see the impact it makes on communities and what we can do with the money – scientific research, awareness, and vital information. Demonstrating that impact is vital to a great relationship, showing how meaningful her contribution is to the organisation, to supporters. It means the world to us, and we’re so proud to have Beth on our team.”

Motives for other potential ambassadors don't have to be a personal connection; being an ambassador is about supporting a cause you feel strongly about and would like to help.

To conclude here are our top 3 tips on becoming an ambassador for a charity and how to pick yourself a new ambassador:

  1. Approach a charity that you feel a strong connection towards

  2. Use your social media presence to promote the charities work and events

  3. Be passionate and enthusiastic about the charity's cause

Top 3 Tips on picking a new ambassador;

  1. Look for someone that has a large following on their social media

  2. Choose someone that shares your charity’s values and goals

  3. Find someone that has a connection to the charity in some way


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