To be recognised as a 2014 member of the exclusive AIM30 Under 30 is an exciting achievement. It’s a significant career accolade to celebrate with family, friends and colleagues, as well as a chance to reflect on one’s career journey to date. For me, this has been a journey with a sport and community focus.

I firmly believe that business presents an opportunity to influence social improvement and positive change. This has become only more apparent as my career has progressed. There was once a time when a phrase like ‘triple bottom line’ would have sounded more like an aerial ski jump manoeuvre than something for me to understand and embrace within the organisational context. However times change and I’ve now come to learn – and share – that with high profile and brand value comes social responsibility.

When your employer possesses a highly visible brand, the glare of the spotlight can be both intoxicating and distracting in equal measure. In the business of sport this is only accentuated. However the advantages do outweigh the disadvantages. The occasional moments when you wish for a lesser employer profile are considerably offset by the frequent moments when profile is the greatest asset in telling your brand story.

As Head of Community at the Essendon Football Club, I enjoy a rewarding remit. I lead our important work across a broad range of external community relationships, including charities, sporting clubs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups. The opportunity to leverage an organisation’s brand to support and grow another’s is an important and satisfying activity.

This though, clearly, is not a new or particularly ground-breaking concept. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Corporate Community Investment (CCI) are both widely known and adopted principles, and we have witnessed the emergence of Porter’s Shared Value model across the Australian professional landscape.

For me though, it simply comes down to caring about your community.  It’s all about displaying a genuine willingness to listen and respond to needs. Authenticity is critical and cannot be imitated.

When a now former player was diagnosed with cancer, the business rallied around the individual and his very personal fight. This support led to what has become an 8 year charitable partnership with the Cancer Council Victoria to raise funds and awareness for men’s cancer-related illness. This and other partnerships have continued to shape our business, and helped carve out our proud identity as a club that embraces community needs because it understands its responsibility and impact.

It’s important to declare that leveraging your brand to support others can be challenging work – expectations can feel overwhelming. However there is no apology required for being ‘strategically supportive’. A business case should sit beneath community decisions –not for the purpose of financial return, but for social return.

Contracting the London Benchmarking Group as an independent evaluation partner has proven to be a helpful measurement technique for understanding our inputs, outputs and impacts. This, coupled with a range of internal evaluation mechanisms, allows for a thorough assessment of partnerships and program delivery.

In an age when brand is everywhere and is seemingly everything, I encourage young managers to consider how their personal brand and values fit and compliment the brand and social purpose of their employer.

There is some remarkable and rewarding work to be accomplished.

Cameron Britt is the Head of Community at Essendon Football Club. He is also one of  the AIM30 Under Thirty for 2014.

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