Speedo, the world’s leading swimwear brand, has partnered with youth culture and purpose MISSION Agency, Livity, to launch Swim United, a brand platform on a mission to break down the barriers to swimming faced by many families in the UK and increase equity in the water. Launching with a series of Swim Stories, created by Livity, which tell the stories of underrepresented communities, the programme will also see Speedo engage with schools in London, helping young swimmers build much needed confidence and skills in and around the water.
Created in partnership with Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) and with the support of Black Swimming Association (BSA), Swim United is a long-term commitment developed in a response to research from Sport England and the BSA which found that children from marginalised communities and minority groups are at a disadvantage when it comes to learning to swim at primary school. Only 42% of children going to school in the most deprived areas of the country are able to swim, compared to 86% in the least deprived areas. Moreover, 532,000 children from ethnically-diverse communities have missed out on swimming lessons due to the pandemic.
To help affect real change, Speedo knew that it had to both engage in tangible action at a schools and community level, as well as spark a wider dialogue about the cultural, financial and systemic barriers that keep many children at the water’s edge. Through the Swim United programme, Speedo will engage 35 schools across London’s most socially and economically disadvantaged areas, reigniting children’s interest in swimming through activity packs and providing intensive two-week swimming courses for 1,200 students, with the overarching aim of making swimming more equitable.
In addition to this wider outreach in schools and at leisure centres, the Swim United launch is accompanied by a video content series and social campaign which celebrates the joy of swimming, as experienced by three real families not typically represented in the swimming community. In each of the three Swim Stories created by Livity, and directed by award-winning director Jess Kohl, PRETTYBIRD, we see parents open up about the challenges they have had to overcome to learn how to swim, and how they are empowering their children to find their own joy in the water.
With a history of working hand-in-hand with the next generation to create a more inclusive world, Livity made it possible for Speedo to better engage with these marginalised and underrepresented communities in a way which was authentic, respectful and sensitive. Working closely with Rani Patel, Livity’s Director of Cultural Collaborations to define the brief, the Swim Stories tell the experiences of:
● Remi – A mother of Caribbean-descent who reflects on the uniqueness of a childhood spent swimming at Brixton’s leisure centre – having grown up in a community where swimming is a novelty – and the joy of passing on that love of swimming to her daughter.
● Cathy – A single-mother to two young children, all three of whom were born with dwarfism, who is teaching her two daughters the joys of the pool whilst appreciating the moments of physical connection the buoyancy of the water allows them to share.
● Niran – A father whose Keralan ancestry didn’t prioritise swimming, who is overcoming his own fear of swimming by sharing in his daughter’s joy of the water every weekend at their local pool.
Kev McFadyen, Global Brand Director, Speedo commented: “In order to truly challenge the societal and cultural barriers that prevent some communities from learning to swim, we knew we needed an agency partner that deeply understood the communities we wanted to reach, and that knew how Speedo could play a meaningful role. Livity is unique in this sense, and Swim United is the outcome of a truly collaborative and purpose-driven partnership that also extended to organisations such as the Black Swimming Association and GLL.”
Alex Goat, CEO, Livity added: “Speedo is widely renowned as the leading consumer brand in swimming and, as such, knew it had a responsibility to spread the message that swimming truly is for everyone. Beyond sparking a conversation, Swim United platform has the power to make a tangible difference to children – and parents – across a number of marginalised groups.
We’re thrilled to unveil our work with Speedo, and know that this is just the beginning of a bigger movement to reach communities which have historically been peripheral to the swimming community. Engaging with our network of diverse voices and groups, we were able to connect Speedo with communities and individuals who have their own, important, swim stories to tell and a right to joy in the water.”
Jess Kohl, director, Prettybird, commented: “I was drawn to the project because it was an opportunity to represent communities and experiences which historically haven’t been heard. Spreading awareness of the barriers that people face at the pool has the potential to bring about real change – even save lives, as swimming is a vital life skill. Collaborating with Remi, Cathy and Niran to tell their stories was enlightening, and hopefully will encourage other underrepresented groups to take up space at the pool.”
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