In the city yesterday, my eyes were drawn to a hashtag campaign I’d never seen before: This Girl Can in M and S. Never heard of it or seen it.

In fact, it puzzled me.

Tonight though I’ve done a spot of research to uncover a whole website and campaign behind the hashtag branding: here.

The proliferation of titular Girls is a relatively new phenomenon: Girl on a Train, Gone Girl and now This Girl Can.

This Girl Can is a very sophisticated multilevelled strategy: with the noble premise being to raise the aspirations and esteem of women by celebrating their sporting activities and successes in a beautifully designed, user-friendly website, with brilliant web content.

In just 14 months, the initiative by Sport England has garnered 85,000 followers on Twitter, 325,000 likes on Facebook, 21,000 YouTube subscribers and 28,000 Instagram followers – these are phenomenal statistics for a fledgling website.

So what’s behind its success – from my perspective?

  • It’s inspiring in its stories – there are real people and stories to relate to there.
  • It’s championing 50% of the population.
  • The social media pages are totally engaging.
  • The website has a “Supporter Hub” allowing supporters to connect and interact.
  • This Girl Can have built a strategy, a thought leadership campaign if you like, of motivating women to a do a range of sports; then building, engaging, inspiring with branded merchandise launched just this week in Marks and Spencer.

If the sportswear had been launched without the 14 month lead in, I doubt it would be the success it will surely be now, in commercial sales.

I think there’s a message in here for all of us in business: create an idea, engage with followers across social media pages and then market the product. The key, in my opinion, is the submersive engagement – like listening to a great piece of music.

As EM Forster said in his epigraph to “Howards End” – “Only connect”.

Sport England and This Girl Can have connected.

Have a look?