The Unilever Interview

The Unilever Interview
Chris Barron, General Manager Personal Care UK&I / VP Deodorants Europe.

For several years now we’ve been told that brands who put purpose at the heart of their business are outperforming their peers that are perceived not to. That’s a view shared by Chris Barron, General Manager Personal Care UK&I and VP Deodorants Europe, during his interview on day one of the 2023 International Sports Convention.

Barron, who manages a portfolio of brands – including Lynx, Dove, Sure, and Radox – with associations to sport, outlined Unilever’s position of “doing well by doing good” with a clear belief in sustainable business and making sustainable living commonplace.

“Brands with purpose deliver better business results. Purpose is at the heart of everything we at Unilever do because brands with purpose have a meaning to consumers beyond the product and its core benefits.

For Barron, the proof is in the results. “Brands like Dove, with purpose at their core, are growing faster. They also win new customers at a much higher rate,” he said.

A Sure Sign of Success
Barron pointed to the success of Sure deodorant’s partnerships with Manchester City and Chelsea, which extend across both men’s and women’s teams, as examples of how purpose can be used as a key lever within the positioning of product.

With a core focus on the message that the more active you are the more healthy you will be, Unilever were able to advertise Sure in engaging ways by utilising the club assets, such as Mason Mount, to target key audience segments. Barron also stressed that it was crucial to Sure that the relationships extended to the women’s teams.

From Grassroots to Elite
Sure believes in the power of movement to transform lives and is on a mission to inspire everyone to move more. Barron explained how this insight not only drove its ads featuring elite athletes but became a powerful vehicle for a broader consumer campaign.

Leaning on research that showed fear of judgement stops one in two people from moving, Sure created the Sure Breaking Limits Programme – in partnership with Beyond Sport – to provide millions of young people with access to movement-based programmes, coaching and mentorship they need to transform their lives through the power of movement.​

A content series ‘Watch Me Move’ depicted a group of eight content creators and athletes take to the streets and public spaces, each of whom breaks society’s idealised image of the human body, ignoring the stares and quiet judgements of those around them. Participants included amputee Manchester City and England footballer Sean Jackson, fostering the link with the club at all levels of the game.

For Barron, sport remains a key activation platform for Unilever and one that it is committed to for the long term. The focus on purpose has increasingly moved sport sponsorships away from being badging exercises and Barron is convinced the storytelling potential sport offers will see brands that fuse the two elements continue to thrive.

This interview/session was moderated by Michael Inpong, Managing Director of Sport&Brands, brand strategy consultancy applied to sport.