With its communication strategy for the car tyre recycling organization RecyBEM, Hill+Knowlton Strategies Netherlands won an EMEA SABRE Award in the Issues Management category. This prize was awarded for the work in the debate about the suspected health risks that could arise through the use of rubber crumb on artificial pitches. The SABRE Awards are given out every year for communication and public relations work that exhibits the highest level of strategy, creativity and business impact. The international prize is an initiative from The Holmes Group, an independent organization that carries out research worldwide on the current state of play in the communication domain.

At the end of 2016, the use of rubber crumb as a filling for artificial pitches became a matter of national debate in the Netherlands when a suggestion was made in the media that exposure to rubber crumb had health risks. However, there was no scientific basis for this claim. Together with RecyBEM (the sector organization responsible for collecting and reusing old car tyres), Hill+Knowlton developed a communication strategy to bring some nuance back into the debate. An important part of this was a cross-media campaign in which all relevant stakeholders were provided balanced information on this subject in a personal manner. The communication strategy and support from Hill+Knowlton ensured that the discussion that was happening between sportspeople, politicians and media shifted from a one-sided presentation of opinions to an open and transparent discussion based on all the facts, circumstances, standpoints and insights.

The communication strategy was developed and implemented by a team of communication professionals led by Ingo Heijnen, Chairman and Sr. Vice President Operations EMEA Hill+Knowlton. “The discussion about the health risks of the use of rubber crumb on artificial pitches was an example of societal disquiet that can emerge if debate is carried out on the basis of one-sided and often incorrect information. This case involved journalistic tunnel vision, which made a large number of people uncertain about the applicability of rubber crumb. We are extremely proud that we were able to bring all the relevant facts and standpoints into the discussion. This important international communication prize is a fantastic compliment for the work of our team and the people at RecyBEM. Our communication strategy showed that Hill+Knowlton’s multi-stakeholder approach has an impact in the most challenging circumstances,” says Ingo Heijnen.

Pan-EMEA Consultancy of the Year

Hill+Knowlton Strategies EMEA also won the Pan-EMEA Consultancy of the Year Award. The prize is awarded annually to the most innovative and effective communication advice agency in the EMEA region.