Clare Balding, Gary Barlow, Rio Ferdinand and Rylan Clark-Neal join BT +1 movement to beat loneliness

  • Building on BT’s broader Skills for Tomorrow programme, Rio Ferdinand, Rylan Clark-Neal, Clare Balding and Gary Barlow front BT’s nationwide campaign to inspire people to reconnect with someone they’ve lost touch with

  • Manchester United Legend Rio reconnected with his “Manchester aunt”, Carol, who served as dinner lady at Old Trafford during his time at the club. While Gary Barlow touched base with his first mentor Bob Howes

  • BT has today launched its +1 hub, which will feature the celebrity reconnection stories, as well as a series of videos and guides to help the nation learn about different technologies and how to use them to reconnect this festive period

  • The digitally integrated campaign, created by BT’s advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, will run across TV, radio, digital and social – view here

LONDON – Tuesday 15, December: Clare Balding, Gary Barlow, Rio Ferdinand and Rylan Clark-Neal have joined BT’s +1 movement, a nationwide campaign that aims to beat loneliness by encouraging people to add someone they care about back into their lives via a video call, a message, or a DM.

With feelings of acute loneliness increasing during lockdown, the latest campaign is an example of how BT’s Skills for Tomorrow programme is helping people make the most of life in the digital world, through the power of technology.

In the series of short films set to be released throughout the week, created by BT’s advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, audiences will see sporting icons Balding and Ferdinand, popstar Barlow, and presenter Clark-Neal, reconnect with special people in their lives they’ve lost touch with. As well as providing tips and tutorials on how to make the most out of different technology this festive season.

Popstar Gary Barlow sang a happy tune, as he was captured in the short film speaking with his music mentor, Bob Howes, for the first time in months. Barlow said: “This period has taken a lot away from us, but the biggest thing is connection. I don’t know where I would be now if it wasn’t for Bob giving me his time when I was just starting out. Having someone outside of my family to just say, ‘hey, you're not bad at this - keep trying’ was so important to me. I’ve really missed being with Bob, but thank goodness during this time we are able to connect, even if we can’t be with those we care about most.”

Meanwhile, Rio Ferdinand reconnected with Carol, his much-loved dinner lady at Manchester United in his short film. Rio had such a close relationship with Carol that she became affectionately known to him as his “Manchester aunt”.

Ferdinand said: ““More than four million people are in a position of loneliness, its staggering when you think about it and really hit home when we went into lockdown this year. You realise that even with a house full of kids, a wife and dogs there can still be moments of loneliness. It’s been a year of total uncertainty with lockdown and a lot of people living in isolation, all the simple things we took for granted have been taken away, so a quick video or phone call to friends or family can have a great impact on mental wellbeing.

“During the 12 years I spent at Manchester United I saw Carol almost every day at the training ground, she was part of the fabric of the club and always there through the good and bad times. I saw her more than I would see some members of my family. But then after I retired, I didn’t see her for a couple of years. We used to text or chat on the phone, but it’s been a while, so the chance to reconnect with her was amazing.

“Carol epitomises the people of Manchester, she’s caring, she’s got a great sense of humour and she speaks her mind. Some people just always bring a smile to your face, and whenever I walk into the canteen at Carrington, I’m always looking for her. We’ve built a genuine friendship over the years. When you meet a person like Carol, you don’t forget them.

“Carol was a very funny lady. I loved speaking to her and having a laugh over a cup of tea at the training ground. She would treat everybody the same, academy players, Premier League champions or Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the biggest names in the history of football. She was the only one who could joke with Sir Alex, I remember once he walked in wearing a smart pair of cream chinos as I was talking to Carol, she stopped our conversation and just said to him “what are you wearing?!” which made us all laugh.”

This week, Clare Balding will reconnect with Cruft’s commentator Jess Holmes, while Rylan will touch base with fellow contestant Lucy Spraggan.

To help inspire the UK public to reach out to loved ones they have lost touch with during this tumultuous time, BT has today launched its +1 hub which features tips and resources from the UK’s leading charities on how to beat loneliness, as well as videos and guides to help the nation learn about different technologies and how to use them to reconnect this festive period.

Marc Allera, CEO BT’s Consumer division said: “In a year that’s been one of the most challenging, our responsibility as a national enabler, with the ability to help the country connect has never been more important. We are in a unique position to help millions of people reconnect and provide them with guidance on the best ways to do that. So, with the help of some of our celebrity friends, we are encouraging people to reach out and reconnect with one person they've lost touch with, whether it be an old friend, family member or colleague, over text, phone or video call, WhatsApp, a voice note or even through virtual gaming, to help beat loneliness.”

In the lead-up to Christmas, the +1 campaign will also be backed by social media influencers, who despite racking up millions of followers, understand the importance of staying connected to fend off feelings of loneliness. Publicis•Poke has developed the influencer strategy, working alongside Saatchi & Saatchi. As part of the activity, singer-songwriter Sarah Close will inspire fans to reconnect with friends and family through music and will be penning and performing personal tunes based on the reconnection stories of her followers. While football gamer Manny will demonstrate how people can stay connected in the gaming world.

BT’s +1 campaign is an example of how its broader BT’s Skills for Tomorrow is helping 10 million people make the most of life in the digital world. The programme is completely free and designed to help everyone – from school children and teachers, to parents, businesses, jobseekers – and anyone who needs guidance getting online, or help to make the most of life. Working in partnership with leading digital skills organisations, BT have collated the best courses and information, in one easy to navigate place.

More information about BT’s +1 Movement can be found here: https://BT.com/plusone

About BT

BT Group is the UK’s leading telecommunications and network provider and a leading provider of global communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities in the UK include the provision of fixed voice, mobile, broadband and TV (including Sport) and a range of products and services over converged fixed and mobile networks to consumer, business and public sector customers. For its global customers, BT provides managed services, security and network and IT infrastructure services to support their operations all over the world. BT consists of four customer-facing units: Consumer, Enterprise, Global and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Openreach, which provides access network services to over 650 communications provider customers who sell phone, broadband and Ethernet services to homes and businesses across the UK.

For the year ended 31 March 2020, BT Group’s reported revenue was £22,905m with reported profit before taxation of £2,353m.

British Telecommunications plc is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

For more information, visit www.bt.com/about