Sports Interactive has been loud and clear about collaboration with charities

For collaborations to work for both sides, charities and entertainment creators need to engage early in the process – but how does this work in the real world?

At the OKRE Summit 2022, Miles Jacobson OBE, studio director of Sports Interactive, the studio behind the global hit Football Manager, discussed successful collaborations, and the responsibility that comes with having an audience’s attention.  

Football Manager (2022) has sold one million copies on PC and Mac units, and now has eighteen games in the series. But as well as immersing players in the world of football business, the game has also tackled issues such as racism, mental health and LGBTQI+ equality.

Miles Jacobson was an early adopter of the collaboration model. With his own personal history of having worked in music as an A&R Rep for Food Records – he worked on War Child’s first Help album with Band Aid getting Blur on the record – Jacobson’s journey of collaboration propelled him to contact game publishers before signing any contracts to let them know that they would be giving 10p from every game sold to a charity of their choice:

“Because I had worked with War Child on that first album and had seen the difference it was going to make to people, I think they were an obvious charity for us to work with. I think we’ve raised over one and a half million pounds for them from games sales so far.” Jacobson stated.

And for over twenty years, Sports Interactive has collaborated with charities of their choice with the knowledge that collaboration between social cause and entertainment can change perceptions, remove stigma, and change attitudes 

Jacobson was quick to note that Sports Interactive worked and collaborated with charities on causes that they felt passionately about and that impacted the football world, beyond the game play. One such example is the Kick It Out charity which works to raise awareness of and act against racism within the game.
“We obviously promote them in game as well and have worked, for instance, with Kick It Out for many years because racism shouldn’t be in society and it shouldn’t be in football.”

Miles Jacobson OBE, Studio Director, Sports Interactive

Mental Health Support Within The Game

This mix of partnership, social responsibility and the impact that this can have is something that Jacobson is deeply aware of, noting that when they pandemic hit, they were conscious that play times were going to go up because playing is a good escape. But they were also aware that people were going to struggle with their mental health – particularly men who might not feel as able to say out loud to their partners or their circle that they were struggling:

“Blokes don’t talk about it as much, so we gave away 200 million adverts inside the game for mental health charities, local and national, so that people are one button click away from getting help.”

Mental health has not been the only personal topic that has been supported in the game universe. Many players have also come out within the game and, Jacobson states, they see the hits on their merchandise go up and that is all that happens.

Moderator Ayesha Hazarika noted that it does feel like football has been quite behind the times in terms of people being able to come out – how does Sports Interactive feel about having helped pave the way and creating a safer environment?
“We don’t make a big deal out of it because it shouldn’t have to be a story. We are fortunate enough to have a voice. We have a couple of million people who play our game each year, 20% play it for more than 500 hours, 60% play for more than 100 hours.

"When you’ve got [those numbers], if there are ways that you can help push positive messages, I feel it can only be a good thing."

Miles Jacobson

Key Takeaways

  • Use your platform and your voice
  • Engage early in the process
  • Giving money is not the only way to collaborate and engage with charities