FEATURE: Let’s Get it On

Swedish underwear brand Björn Borg is collaborating with the MTV Staying Alive Foundation to raise awareness around HIV. Ahead of the launch last month, Sarah Blackman spoke to campaign leaders Arthur Engel and Georgia Arnold about the partnership and their plans for next season.

When Swedish underwear brand Björn Borg came to London last month to challenge Brits to ‘Get it On’ and raise awareness for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation (SAF), Lingerie Insight was excited to hear more about the collaboration and drum up some publicity for the campaign.

Over three days, the label met with Chasing Zero, an organisation which works with school children in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, to help eradicate HIV and Aids. The project received a $12,000 grant from SAF in December 2012, taking the charity’s total investment in young organisations to $4 million.

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The brand also unveiled a pop-up space in Selfridges’ flagship store on Oxford Street, showcasing its limited-edition pants developed in line with its partnership with SAF.

The underwear, available for men and women, features a seductive Kama Sutra print in two colourways. One Euro from each sale goes towards the foundation so that it is able to hand out more grants to more projects that are passionate about preventing the spread of HIV.

But the campaign doesn’t end at Selfridges; Björn Borg has more than 60 retailers worldwide who are helping to support the campaign. And, both SAF and Björn Borg are hoping to continue their partnership into SS14 and beyond.

From a press conference on London’s Bethnal Green Road, ahead of the ‘Get it On’ launch party, Björn Borg CEO Arthur Engel and MTV Staying Alive Foundation executive director Georgia Arnold spoke to Lingerie Insight about how their collaboration first came about and why the two brands are a perfect match.

Sarah Blackman: How did the collaboration first come about? Who approached who?

Georgia Arnold: Do you know, I actually can’t remember when we had the initial meeting, but we started discussing in-depth when I went out to Stockholm and met the creative team and Arthur. We were discussing what we wanted to do together and what we agreed on was that we wanted to raise money, but that we also wanted to raise awareness around the issue. Knowing that, we could sort out details in terms of what Björn Borg’s strengths are as a company, and what our strengths are and that is to give air time and information around the issue of HIV.

SB: How is the launch going so far?

GA: We’ve had a really good two days together. We went to Oxford yesterday, which is where the project, Chasing Zero, is based, and we met with the guys downstairs in an ice cream parlour. One of the things the project is doing to be sustainable is selling ice cream. But the other thing, which is great, is they go into schools with the ice cream and the students open up to them about sex and HIV.
So we went downstairs and ate ice cream, drank coffee and we had a really brilliant afternoon because the young people who run it are a mixture of students and ex students and they are so passionate, so driven and their goal is to eradicate Aids. And that was the start of our 48 hours together.

SB: How successful has your Selfridges pop-up shop been?

Arthur Engel: I’ve just heard rumours that we are doing well, but of course it is a much bigger project than just Selfridges. It is a great venue when it comes to London, but we are doing this in all of our 60 plus stores and with other big retailers in Europe.The limited-edition pieces are sold to most of our retailers. We have done other collaborations, for example for the World Cup, and most of our big accounts are interested in hanging on to those projects that we are doing. I can’t give you any numbers just now but overall, most of the big accounts are with us.

SB: How are you working with your retailers to try and push the campaign and raise awareness?

AE: I think it’s not a hard sell. We have a lot of money behind it and the project has a great purpose. People are not stupid; they want to participate in something that does good and to do good feels good for everybody. But of course it’s up to us to show that we are serious and that we are backing this up and that we have a serious partner.

SB: Where did your inspirations for the Get it On underwear come from?

AE: The inspiration comes from Kama Sutra and sexual heritage but James, our creative director, has come up with an interpretation to make the prints updated and modern so it fits with what we are doing today.

SB: Why do you think Björn Borg is the best brand to front this campaign?

AE: It comes back to our values. We are passionate, innovative and open and we share these values with MTV. And of course we are an underwear brand and the people who buy and wear our underwear are irresistible and if you are irresistible you need to be responsible when you get it on! I believe we are a serious player, we have presence in many markets which mirrors the MTV presence, so I am very comfortable that we are a good partner to MTV and that we can provide the awareness that MTV expects from us. On a human level also, we get on well together. It has been a very positive working environment. It’s easy, and when it’s easy, it’s good.

GA: When we look to create partnerships at the MTV Staying Alive Foundation we always start with the question “are they a brand fit?” And I think there is absolutely no question in terms of the passion,
integrity and openness that Björn Borg is the best brand to front this important campaign. I think there are hundreds of companies out there, and by the way there are hundreds of charities that are doing just as good work as we are, but I think in terms of fit, it was a very simple match for both of us.

SB: How long are you planning on working together?

GA: We’ve come up with this model that reflects the way we give out grants so when we give out grants we give out a one-year grant and over that one year we’ll make sure progress is being made, that the campaign is having an impact and that we communicate well with each other. On that basis we are then able to give a three-year grant so that’s really how we’ve approached this – to see how we work together, which is going great so far. But right from the start we said we wanted this to be a long-term partnership.

 

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