Newcastle United is set to launch a new vibrating kit, designed to ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing fans feel fully immersed in the matchday experience. The innovative kit will sync with on-field events. Supporters who wear the new haptic kit in the stadium will experience a tactile representation of the action unfolding on the pitch, making matches more accessible and inclusive for deaf and hard-of-hearing fans.

Adding the extra dimension of synchronised touch will allow fans to feel more connected to the game without relying solely on visual cues. By receiving reconstructed sound as instant digital signals, the shirts will bring the atmosphere of the stadium to life and allow those with hearing impairments, literally, to feel the noise.  A pioneering partnership between sponsor Sela and RNID allowed the club to integrate their message into some recent games with the visible support of players on the pitch.

This initiative serves as a shining example of purposeful inclusion, offering valuable insights for agencies and brands alike. As an industry, there is a lot that we can learn from the initiative; both in how we operate and in the work that we produce. Brands should always seek to embrace how they can make people’s lives easier and drive social change by including everyone in an experience or product as richly as possible.

Here are some actionable ways brands can lead the charge in making their media activities more inclusive of those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing:

  • Feature deaf talent: Actively seek out and showcase deaf actors, producers, and creators in media content, collaborating with deaf creators (writers and directors) to ensure that they are encouraged to participate in shaping narratives. This will ensure that we are highlighting deaf stories authentically – shining a light on their experiences, challenges and triumphs.
  • Expand accessibility: Ensure all video content includes accurate captions or subtitles and provide audio descriptions for visual elements in videos so that they are accessible for the blind and visually impaired.
  • Educate through sensitivity training: Conduct sensitivity and awareness training to foster empathy and a supportive workplace environment for employees with impairments.
  • Encourage collaboration and feedback: Create channels for employees with impairments to provide feedback and input on advertising campaigns. Their insights can help advertisers better understand the needs and preferences of diverse audiences.
  • Advocate for inclusive policies: Leverage our influence as media agencies to advocate for policies that promote accessibility and representation in the advertising industry. This also includes prioritising inclusive policies internally, ensuring that this is reflected in our own operations and campaigns.

Brands that embrace these actions will reap numerous benefits. A 2023 survey by McKinsey revealed that 70% of Gen Z consumers actively support companies they perceive as ethical. By demonstrating inclusive strategies, brands are able to position themselves as market leaders as they pave the way for other brands to follow.