I’m back from my summer holiday in the Alps with a renewed energy to look at how I, and everyone at Aspire, can live our values and make a positive contribution to our clients, communities and the world around us.

Maybe it’s something about the mountains? Aspire was conceived on a ski trip in 2010, a moment of reflecting and dreaming of what could be possible and a realisation that it was time to seize the moment.

Taking time out, resetting and giving yourself space to think is vital to any kind of change or progress. Over 10 years on, and my holiday in the Alps has given me the freedom to look again at our goals and ambitions.

Reconsidering the purpose of the agency started when the pandemic forced a pause and window of reflection upon us all. I am grateful for this time of complete vulnerability, which I believe made me wake up to new opportunities and inspired me to dream again.

The world feels a little different this side of Covid. To look at what we do, and how we do things, is even more important. As we forge forwards on the rest of our 2022 journey, I’d like to share my thoughts on the past year and the future road ahead.

We need to make conscious decisions about the paths we choose and continue to strive to make movement matter to millions more around the world.

Innovation and creativity

The launch of the On Cloudmonster has been a big highlight of 2022. The Cloudmonster is such a different kind of performance running shoe and shows that On has not lost any of its disruptive, pioneering spirit.

The Aspire and On team collaborated to deliver a brilliant launch based around a pop-up installation, the Monster Den. With media, influencers and guests from the running community chasing a monster around London, the event was buzzing with energy and really brought the ‘Get Weird’ campaign message to life. Even my young daughter can remember the name of the monster!

The event also confirmed how creativity is key to winning people’s hearts and minds, both core brand fans and new fashion and lifestyle audiences.

Read more about the On Cloudmonster launch.

Having worked with On for a long time, I’m excited about what’s coming next. The CleanCloud initiative, which turns carbon emissions into running shoes, shows how pioneering brands like On can set the standard for sustainability for others to follow.

Consumers will increasingly choose brands actively doing something about climate change, and companies will urgently need to develop and implement meaningful sustainability strategies.

PR and marketing with purpose

I thought a lot about purpose on my summer trip. I want Aspire to choose a path that is about much more than just commercial success.

We have a responsibility to stay true to our core values and play our part in three important areas: sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and mental wellbeing.

It’s not always easy to weave purpose into everyday work when we’re helping clients to achieve their ambitions. But I’m pleased to say we’ve made a great start giving back and supporting some fantastic charities and organisations in 2022.

We’re working with Cyclists Fighting Cancer, a charity helping children and young people live with cancer across the UK. We helped the organisation hit fundraising targets for its Guinness World Record attempt from John O’Groats to Land’s End – and we look forward to giving more pro-bono support towards future events. 

Find out about our work with Cyclists Fighting Cancer.

Via our client OOFOS, we are giving our time to drive forwards a brand partnership with The Royal Marsden. OOFOS is donating 2% of all net online sales in support of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity as well as gifting footwear products to the hospital’s staff. This is part of the brand’s global Project Pink initiative.

We are also supporting community organisation Run Grateful, starting with their Gratitude Moves event on World Gratitude Day.

We are actively looking to support campaigns which align with our values. One that recently caught my eye was JogOn Recycle. Tony Piedade, the founder, has a simple mission to stop 1 million pairs of running shoes ending up in landfill. With Aspire minds fully on a more sustainable future, we will be offering pro-bono media relations support to this campaign before the year is out.

Bringing people together

I’m proud of how we bring different groups together for new and interesting experiences.

We’ve worked hard over the years to build an engaged community and absolutely love face-to-face time with our brands and community, it’s one of the best bits of the job.

This year we’ve delivered high quality, intimate media and community events and activations for groups from many different backgrounds, bringing the benefits of movement to more and more people.

‘Connect with Nature’ involved a guided hike and run for Sealskinz, supported by Peak Footwear, and was led by the Fell Foodie, Harrison Ward. The event was accessible to everyone and it was great to see a diverse guest list from London, including the @muslim.hikers, enjoy a damp day out in the countryside!

‘Run & Recover’ with OOFOS and Black Girls Do Run reached out to new and diverse communities and showed the benefits of active recovery following a run or workout.

We have also helped to break down barriers to sport. It was extra special to work with Linford Christie and Sue Barratt (my first bosses in the sports industry) on ‘Embrace the Escape’ introducing new audiences to outdoor swimming. And in our Zone3 urban swim event, we partnered with LGBTQ+ aquatics charity, Out To Swim, to show that swimming is for everyone, whatever the season.

Our community is packed full of passionate, interesting, amazing people that share our vision. Doing stuff together in real life gives us the ultimate chance to celebrate the power of movement together.

Building strong relationships

Carving out time for our own initiatives is a real challenge. I feel it’s important to our identity and authenticity, and for building our own relationships. Agency life can’t all be about billable time.

This year we’ve organised four Moving Meets and one Moving Communities, including our first ever fusion of the two events.

Movement is for Every Body was centred around body image and positivity and I was moved to tears by our guests sharing their very personal stories. I guess, we got the environment and community attendees just right. For people to be so open was pretty special.

We also have a responsibility to invest in our team. I have always known if we can find the people who are right for Aspire, and vice versa, we can thrive. Getting the balance right for both the company and for individuals is an ongoing challenge but it’s the most important relationship we need to nurture, and we are absolutely committed to it.

This month the team took part in the LGN Inter Advertising 5K. It was a great way to bring our team and wider community together around a running event. It was fun: something that should not be underestimated as an essential part of running a business… reminder to self!

I always see Aspire as bigger than it is, because outside of our core ‘employed’ team, we have a whole community that plays a vital part in the Aspire journey – suppliers, brands, journalists, influencers, content creators and more.

Our success will be determined by the strong relationships we can build around shared values with everyone involved with Aspire.

Celebrating achievements, big and small

Another reflection is we don’t stop often enough to celebrate successes. Maybe we focus too much on the destination and less about the moments on the way?

Last year, On floated on the New York Stock Exchange and became a $7 billion shoe company. We have been lucky to be a part of the  incredible On journey from start-up to global brand name for over 10 years. I’m proud of the hard work the Aspire team has dedicated to delivering for On, day in, day out, contributing to their success story.

We have always done well building and maintaining long-term relationships with clients. motive8 is our original client and with the founder’s backing I was able to start Aspire. They are still a client today and I will never forget the trust and support given to me.

Being part of a brand’s growth at any stage is an honour. We get a big buzz from seeing tangible results from our work. The challenge of big brand projects is exciting and, dare I say it, the pressure can be thrilling.

We find that with smaller, up and coming brands, it can be easier to track and measure results and working in close collaboration means we get a real insight into all sorts of metrics. We have been raising the profile of MAAREE since 2020 and have seen the brand win media coverage and take a leading position in the UK sports bra market.

Having a mixed portfolio of big and smaller brands is important to us. It gives us a great understanding of different client’s needs, depending on where they are in their journey.

It’s right to call-out the successes but I also believe that we must never get complacent. We need to challenge ourselves, develop our services and push on to keep achieving results for our clients over a long period of time.

2022 has been a great year so far, yet there’s still so much more to do. I want to redefine our agency and my role within it to create a job I love.

Most of all, I want Aspire to be known as a positive force for our planet, even if it’s a path that can be more difficult to take.

Layla Smith, Founder & Managing Director, Aspire PR