Case study: Sky and Econsultancy

sky academy of marketing

How Sky’s Award-Winning Training Programme Revitalised Their Marketing Team

Sky is a household name in the UK, reaching over 95% of British homes with offerings spanning sports, news, movies and more. Like most companies, COVID lockdowns forced their staff behind screens for close to two years. When employees returned to the office, Sky found itself facing some key challenges.

First, collaboration had declined during the extended work from home period, which impacted Sky’s ability to attract and retain talent. With less in-person interaction across teams and verticals, creativity had suffered. Streaming giants and social media darlings had seen massive growth during lockdowns, and Sky now found itself vying for new hires against those flashier competitors.

Recognising these issues started at the employee level, but the rationale was more about getting from good to great in an increasingly competitive marketplace post-COVID. Sky decided investing in dynamic in-person training could spark the reconnection and engagement their marketers needed to drive business outcomes.

sky academy curriculum


Sky Academy of Marketing’s 3-Day Curriculum

The Sky Academy of Marketing

Sky created the Marketing Excellence Programme to increase access to industry inspiration and best practice, bring marketing teams together, and most importantly, (re)train people in the fundamentals of great marketing. The tentpole of this training was a 3-day face-to-face programme: The Sky Academy of Marketing.

“A lot of it was about the enduring fundamentals of marketing, but it’s also a little bit of our secret sauce in terms of how we would do things in Sky,” said Dave Stratton, Marketing Director, Sky Sports and Cinema. “We had buy-in [for the programme] all the way up to the CEO, which was super, super important, because these things are not cheap – so you need the buy-in from your senior leadership, and you need the funding to be able to do something like this.”

Programme goals included:

1. Equipping the marketing team with essential knowledge

2. Creating an aligned approach and language for success

3. Improving marketing effectiveness

4. Reigniting team morale and rebuilding office culture

sky live learning

The Approach: Inspiring and empowering staff

In 2022, Sky collaborated with Econsultancy to build the Sky Academy of Marketing – a 3-day foundation course covering core marketing skills that integrated Sky’s own internal marketing approach. Completing the immersive programme has been mandatory for all marketing staff since the programme was created. It’s established a unified foundation of excellence across their marketing team.

The training programme covers 8 key topics and is designed to be practical, experiential, and high impact. The initiative has always been focused on inspiring Sky marketers to create award winning, unforgettable work that’s driven from their company vision: Believe in Better.

After the pandemic, the programme needed to be even more immersive – equal parts enjoyable, inspiring, and practical. By exclusively highlighting award-winning case studies, Sky aimed to reignite attendees’ passion for creating best-in-class work themselves. People weren’t just developing skills – they were having a good time, getting excited about the future, and making connections.

The goals were to inspire and equip teams to achieve excellence, have teams feel valued through career development and investment, and build energy and excitement around working at Sky.

we had buy-ing all the way up to the CEO, which was super, super important... - Dave Stratton, Sky Sports and Cinema

Sky knew that for a training programme to truly deliver results, they needed full buy-in at all levels. Top-down support was crucial – so they secured solid support from their leaders and executives. Sky’s CEO, Stephen Van Rooyen, kicked things off by outlining his expectations in a video for all attendees.

In the video, Stephen Van Rooyen set the expectations and challenged the thinking of participants – giving them permission to take risks that might make their bosses uncomfortable, focusing on the customer in new ways – creating a rallying ‘call to arms’ through their design principles of Bold, Restless and Together. On top of this, he pledged support for new ideas, time, and credit for good work, to ensure senior leaders really listened and empowered the teams.

C-suite executives attended the event, signalling that if leadership cared this much, the initiative should matter to everyone at the company. But it was just as key that the 400+ marketers taking the course felt genuinely pumped to participate.

The Outcome: Revitalising culture and connection

To inspire engagement, Sky focused the training on key behaviours: Bold, Restless, Together. By condensing their vision into these three behaviours and values, Sky aimed to get all marketers speaking the same language and working towards unified goals. While mandatory participation ensured the teams would show up, Sky wanted people to be truly engaged in the content. They worked hard at creating an experience their marketers would get excited about.

The curriculum covered important marketing fundamentals, but Sky spiced it up with guest celeb speakers that included Karen Blackett, Greg Hoffman, Richard Shotton, Cilla Snowball, Rory Sutherland, and Mark Ritson that attracted interest company-wide. The energy and turnout this garnered established strong momentum right from kick-off.

After the first year of the Sky Academy of Marketing:

The training programme improved business outcomes. Marketing output became more effective, with higher System1 advertising scores.

Employees felt more empowered and better trained.

Happiness and engagement scores increased among the marketing team.

Interest spread company-wide, with other teams looking to emulate the training model.

marketing society award for employee engagement and experience

Winner – Employee Engagement and Experience

The programme unified Sky’s large marketing team around core values and knowledge, achieving a +26 to +60 (cohort 3) NPS. It re-energised culture while equipping employees with skills to drive better performance. This helped strengthen Sky’s employer brand and reignite its competitive advantage.

“We had a clear set of KPIs that we wanted to shift; front and centre was the happiness and engagement of our teams,” said Stratton.

The training was a key pillar of Sky’s overall Marketing Excellence Programme – fundamental to its success. It’s the critical piece that ultimately helped Sky win the Employee Engagement and Experience Award at The Marketing Society Awards.

sky academy of marketing

Looking ahead: What’s Next for Sky?

The next evolution of the Sky Marketing Academy promises to keep the momentum going. The 3-day foundation course workshops, will continue to run annually and will look to create parallel bespoke master class modules to dive into important skills like Marketing Strategy, alongside the continuation of the rest of the Marketing Excellence Programme cadence of inspiration and industry access.

Sky also plans to build on the success of the 2023 marketing training program by entering the Marketing Society Awards again in 2024, as well as rolling out an internal awards program linked to the curriculum categories of Bold, Restless and Together behaviours.”

And it’s not just the marketers benefiting. Dave Stratton, Sky’s Marketing Director for Sports and Cinema, notes that other departments want in on the fun. “We made the training fantastic and engaging – we made it something that people wanted to come to. … It was so impressive that other functions wanted to be part of the training as well!” Sky is now considering adapting the concept for other functions. They aim to align everyone behind a shared vision and approach using the same riveting format.

The talent attraction gains are just icing on the cake. Sky is building a strong reputation as an exciting, progressive brand to work for. By continually investing in their people, that momentum seems likely to continue. The successful programme has paved the way for a high-impact training approach that evolves alongside Sky’s needs.

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