Telum Talks To... Sabrina Cheung, Chief Brand and Communications Officer, AXA

Telum Talks To... Sabrina Cheung, Chief Brand and Communications Officer, AXA

Telum spoke with Sabrina Cheung where she shared her transition from doing lifestyle comms to her experience handling several comms elements at AXA and some of the insurer's recent interesting initiatives.

You’ve worked across many sectors. From your experience, are there any similarities between driving comms for lifestyle, consumer brands and financial sectors?
Yes, there are certainly similarities, as communication objectives largely remain the same. Regardless of the industry, the role of communications is important in building a brand’s reputation. Every brand will have its own purpose and unique proposition, which needs to come across through storytelling in a credible, thoughtful and engaging manner. That story needs to be crafted to suit relevant stakeholders whether they be partners, customers or employees, so there is always a common focus on understanding their motivators and where they overlap with a company’s desired message.

Your role looks after areas such as brand management, thought leadership, media relations and sustainability. How do you juggle so many elements?
The role of brand, communications and sustainability have become interdisciplinary and interwoven. None of these sub-functions can be siloed any more, making work a lot more seamless today than it would have been a decade ago. For example, today, AXA is a purpose-led company that has shared value embedded into its core business model, enabling it to leverage its sustainability objectives within its brand campaigns that are then reinforced by expert opinions via thought leadership across media channels. This means drawing on the diverse aspects of my role to ensure communications are aligned across channels while accurately reflecting and amplifying the substance behind the company’s position.

Do you agree that the insurance industry has moved towards wellness rather than the fundamentals of risk management and claims pay-outs, or is your comms strategy more focused on the basics of why people buy insurance?
Since the launch of our brand promise ‘Know you Can’ in 2019, AXA has been empowering people and underlining the key roles that we, as an insurer, play in people’s daily lives. Underneath this overarching ambition is the very real evolution of how we support our customers. For example, in response to rising health concerns, we’ve innovated our product offerings and value-added services to become increasingly holistic, with a greater recognition of the need for support across prevention, treatment and recovery to deliver real value to customers’ lives.

Your role covers employee communications as well. What has been the most important employee campaign you’ve run? 
AXA is committed to being the most inclusive workplace and we support our employees by working to remove mental health stigmas. We focus on protection, promotion, and provision of services. Over the past year, we’ve made a sustained effort through several campaigns to build mental health awareness and literacy at all levels, which together have enabled us to empower employees to take better care of their mental health and that of others.

How has sponsorship and in particular, your partnership with Liverpool Football Club helped shape consumer attitudes while building the AXA brand?
There is unlimited potential for storytelling in sports marketing and we fully leverage our partnership to complement AXA’s goal of shifting attitudes in equality and diversity, as well as raising awareness about mental health. We see that sports has the emotional power to create positive change and so we’ve leveraged LFC in a variety of compelling content focused on these important themes around International Women’s Day and World Mental Health Day, in addition to regular fitness and health-related content.

You had a decade-long comms career at adidas, what sparked your departure from the sporting goods sector?
I had a fantastic career at adidas and I hold many fond memories of the 10 years I spent there. I learned a lot, worked with dynamic and talented people and had the pleasure of leading communications around the most incredible sporting events in the world, such as the Beijing 2008 Olympics, the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and more. 

It was a tough decision, but a decade across both local and regional capacities was a long time. I wanted a new challenge and the insurance and health services sector really appealed to me, a move which has really exceeded my expectations and enabled me to further grow within the industry. I’m glad I made the move. 

Where would you be in your career now, if you hadn’t joined adidas more than 15 years ago?
In all likeliness, I’d be in a similar role to what I’m doing now. I have always had a keen interest and aptitude for brand and communication, and I have a passion for important topics such as sustainability and community investment. I am also deeply interested in issues such as good mental health in the workplace. I’m happy to be able to make a real difference on these issues, working for a purpose-led company with colleagues who share the same passion.

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