Jen Skingsley of Birkett Long on how to support the community through sponsorship
Birkett Long is a full-service law firm with a presence in both Essex and London. The firm recently partnered with East-Anglia’s first LGBTQ+ Rugby Club, Colchester Kings RFC, in an effort to sustain their positive impact in the community and broadcast their services across the sectors of agriculture, construction, education, health, and social care. We spoke with Jen Skingsley, Head of Marketing at Birkett Long and Colchester Kings superfan, about the importance of meaningful involvement for local businesses in their sponsorship campaigns.
The partnership began with Jen using her connections to the community to contact Sam Biscoe, the Kings' chairperson and Head of Marketing at the Mercury Theatre, of which she is a board member:
“He posted on LinkedIn that he was thinking about setting up the Kings and I replied that this was absolutely something that Birkett Long would be interested in supporting.”
Recognizing the alignment between Birkett Long's sponsorship plans and the proposed rugby team, Sam and Jen decided to explore the concept further. Initially, both parties were uncertain about what the partnership would entail – Jen was very honest about the fact that the socially-conscious alignment was so palpable, it was very much a case of getting involved with one another as soon as possible.
"For us, it was about having sponsors that worked well alongside our activities in the community…Our strategy is not just to throw a logo or money at stuff, we want to be fully involved. This was quite an unusual case in that we were involved in their operations first and then tried to work out a way to have effective branding.”
To get the ball rolling, Birkett Long took an active role in supporting the Kings’ marketing efforts. Leveraging their strong social media presence, Birkett Long actively promoted the team's activities, spread the word about taster sessions, thus generating interest. A pivotal moment in their partnership came during Essex Pride – a significant event for the area and beyond.
“They didn't have the capacity to go to Essex Pride at that point and we had a stand there, so we took their leaflets and approached people to ask if they were interested in rugby.”
Through public engagement in a community-focused event, Kings saw an increase in sign-ups while Birkett Long’s community-conscious efforts were opened up to a participating audience. The legal firm's support enhanced the team's visibility and helped attract potential players and supporters. Furthermore, the exposure garnered during Essex Pride was instrumental in expanding the team's reach and fostering a sense of community around and through the sport.
“With Birkett Long, community is the golden thread that runs through the firm. It's a bit cheesy to say that, but it really is. The people and community are two of our core values - when we see people for interview or meet people out in the community, that is the real thing we get recognised for.”
Birkett Long's involvement in the Colchester Kings RFC extended beyond mere financial support. Jen attended a taster session during the summer, distributing goodie bags to the players and having discussions with them about the club. As the collaboration progressed and both parties gained a deeper understanding of each other's objectives, Birkett Long became a kit sponsor, enabling them to showcase their dedication with tangible support.
The firm’s sponsorship strategy prioritises active participation over superficial logo placement. By engaging with the Kings Rugby Team's activities, Jen and Birkett Long aim to create a lasting impact and forge a genuine connection with the team and its supporters. Their decision to be actively involved right from the start highlights their intention to contribute meaningfully to the team's success and promote a sense of shared purpose.
“Whenever we look at sponsorship opportunities, we think in terms of: we want to sponsor this, what are we going to get from it? But most importantly, what can we do to help? That way we’re showing that we can be impactful and supportive.”
The goal fits neatly in their wider sponsorship portfolio. In addition to partnering with the Kings, they recently organized a free webinar led by their Wills, Trusts, and Probate expert, Emma Harper, which focused on providing a guide to wills specifically tailored to the LGBTQ+ community. Crucially, any sponsorship that purports to be aligned needs to be meaningful and active on both sides.
The firm encourages their staff to identify and nurture relationships with local organizations that fit with their values. Through these internal connections, Birkett Long has fostered partnerships with diverse organisations, including Essex Search & Rescue, Essex Wildlife Trust, Essex Young Farmers, and St Helena Hospice, a charitable organization established by their late Senior Partner, Christopher Holmes.
So what’s the final advice?
“Make use of the innate personal links to your community first and foremost and see what's important to the local area. Being able to mirror your company values through a local sponsorship is so important.”
The Kings will be joining their first official International Gay Rugby League season in September and both Jen and Birkett Long will be cheering them on.