When Gowling WLG was revealed as the first Official Sponsor of Team England ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games it was an exciting moment for everyone across our firm. Usually, when a business announces itself as a sponsor you generally think of a bit of promotion during the event and nothing more than that, but our journey with Team England became something special that many of us will never forget.
Our relationship with Team England began back in January 2020 – just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Our original plans for our sponsorship of the team, as well as Birmingham 2022, were put on hold as we focused on supporting our people through difficult times. Team England became a major part of that, with athletes supporting us with our mental health and wellbeing initiatives. Ali Jawad joined us for our ‘Let’s talk about disability’ event and an exclusive webinar with Denise Lewis acted as a prize for the winners of our ‘Lockdown Showdown’ internal online competition – an initiative to bring some fun activities and healthy competition between departments during lockdown.
As we entered further lockdowns in the winter of 2020, we launched a weekly wellbeing initiative designed to deliver wellbeing resources to our people, many of which involved Team England athletes. We shared #FitnessFriday tips and videos, inspiring people to try something new in their home workouts. We also had the opportunity to share videos of Team England athletes talking about their own mental health.
As the world began to open up, we had the opportunity to spend more time with the athletes, with the likes of Ama Agbeze, Amy Conroy and James Guy working with us to launch ‘The Language of Leadership’ – a playbook and series of podcasts exploring the lessons business can take from sport when it comes to leadership.
As the Games arrived in Birmingham, the tables turned and we were proud to support the athletes as they went out and competed on the world’s stage and racked up the medals – surpassing the 136 they won at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games with 176.
Hearing from them in the aftermath of winning their medals and breaking boundaries and world records was both humbling and inspiring. To name just a few – we’ve shared moments with swim sensation Adam Peaty, triathlon stars Alex Yee, Sophie Coldwell, Sam Dickinson and Georgia Taylor-Brown, para swimmer supremo Maisie Summers-Newton and gymnast Joe Fraser, who was beaming with pride after overcoming a broken foot to win gold in his backyard of Birmingham.
When speaking to wheelchair marathon winner, JohnBoy Smith he made the statement:
“I always preach to anybody, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, your creed, colour or race, if someone like me can win gold at the Commonwealth Games, anybody can do it. I have trained in a leaky roofed garage at the bottom of the garden with some rusty dumbbells. From determination you can do marvellous things. If you have a dream, and you chase it with determination, impossible is nothing.”
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games was often dubbed “the Games for everyone”. Over the past three years we have been lucky to have not only benefitted from the sponsorship in terms of promotion but also access to some of the most inspiring thoughts and ideas from these role models for our people – a rare opportunity for most law firms.
Everyone from Team England we have had the pleasure of spending time with has been first class, from the athletes, to the team behind the team, including communications leads, kitting out professionals, and operations. It was far more than just a sponsorship and we are truly proud to have played a small part in helping Team England with their success at the Games.