Rio Ferdinand, Ian Wright, and Michael Carrick highlight the $10.5 million “GREAT Calling” campaign
Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. However, according to a recent Harris Poll survey, nearly a quarter of Americans were first exposed to the English Premier League — the most-watched domestic sports league in the world — from the award-winning Apple TV show Ted Lasso.
While Coach Lasso’s fictional club, AFC Richmond, their die-hard supporters, and the drama of the EPL is a spirited representation of UK culture, Americans have much more to experience than just the Greyhounds.
The United Kingdom is exporting the best of British culture to the States this month with a $10.5 million campaign titled the “GREAT Calling,” starring soccer legend Rio Ferdinand, world-champion sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, chef Gordon Ramsay, actor Hugh Bonneville, and Great British Baking Show winner Nadiya Hussain, among other UK celebrities.
“This campaign is about providing a fresh perspective on the UK,” UK North American trade commissioner Emma Wade-Smith told Boardroom. “It’s designed to help people pause for a moment to think about and experience the UK differently. Castles and cricket are amazing and they are a phenomenal part of our heritage and tradition, but there is so much more to the UK.”
In addition to a series of lighthearted videos of UK ambassadors debunking misconceptions about British culture, bright red iconic telephone booths are popping up across New York City by which passersby can literally answer a call to win tickets to one of several interactive experiences in sports, music, food, and innovation.
One such GREAT Calling event is an English Premier League watch party in Brooklyn on Saturday, March 12 to kick off a celebration for the league’s 30th anniversary. Fans will be fully immersed in a unique EPL experience — walking through a stadium tunnel, diving deep into the league’s storied history through interactive displays, and enjoying authentic match day food and beverages — ahead of the highly anticipated matchup between Manchester United FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC, the club that initially inspired Ted Lasso for NBC’s EPL coverage.
EPL legends Ian Wright (Arsenal, Crystal Palace, West Ham United) and Michael Carrick (Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United) will be on hand to meet fans and provide in-game commentary, while attendees will also have the unique opportunity to take photos with the Premier League trophy.
Outside of the soccer-specific experience, GREAT Calling includes New York events this month featuring the best of British music, food, and innovation, in hopes of encouraging the world to continue to visit, study, live and do business with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, especially in 2022.
“We’ve got a brilliant year in 2022,” Wade-Smith said. “We’ve got so many different moments that we think are unique experiences that you can only get this year traveling to the UK. We are excited to kick things off in New York, get people moving again and thinking of the UK in a different way this year.”
Among the major sporting events on the UK calendar this year that have global interest are the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, the 150th edition of the British Open at St Andrews, the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 at Wembley Stadium and a new Formula 1 season.
In addition to these global sporting events, the UK hosts The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee — celebrating her 70 years on the throne — the 75th year of the Edinburgh International Festival, and the 100th anniversary of the BBC.
“There is so much pent up demand with so many travel and sports disruptions over the last couple of years so we have a really exciting year ahead,” Wade-Smith said. “This is such a big campaign for us because [the US] is such a big and important market for us. This is a real launchpad for us for the year ahead.”