“A lot of people never figure out what their dreams are. I count myself quite lucky in that I figured mine out quite early.”
These were some of the opening words from Leeds Rhinos legend Jamie Jones-Buchanan MBE when he stepped up to present at the HUB Mill earlier this week.
Now head of culture, diversity and inclusivity at Leeds Rhinos and a board observer for the RFL, Jamie was part of the ‘Golden Generation’ of Leeds Rhinos – devoting 20 years of his playing career to the team that gave him his start.
But what does rugby have to do with HUB? It turns out, quite a bit.
The theme of the presentation was one of HUB’s core values: Doing the right thing. Jamie’s film production company, RAM Films, has seen unprecedented success for a company that came to being only three years ago – all because they chose to do the right thing.
“So, what is ‘the right thing,’ and how do we reference it?” That was the question posed by Jamie when he delved into his story and the background of RAM Films’ success.
For Jamie, it’s all about sacrificial love and providing support for your teammates through thick and thin.
It all started in December 2019, when Jamie’s teammate and close friend Rob Burrow was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND). MND is a rare condition affecting the brain and nerves. There is no known cure.
Rob’s teammates, Olympic heroes and sporting stars immediately sprung to action to do the right thing, organising a gala dinner in his honour which raised £200,000. HUB was honoured to design and donate the materials for the event, including marketing material, event collateral, a calendar and 33 limited-edition canvas prints designed by our very own Nina Ricks.
In what was “probably the greatest moment of [his] career”, Jamie also shared his 20-year testimonial with Rob – because supporting his teammate was simply the right thing to do.
Throughout the presentation, Jamie made it clear that the outcomes of Rob’s diagnosis – immense awareness raised and over £7m donated to MND Association – wouldn’t have been possible on this scale without the love and respect his teammates have for each other.
“I thought I understood what success looked like from my wall of experience”, he said. But being part of the ‘Golden Generation’ is “almost irrelevant” to Jamie now. “I hold dear the people I went on the journey with. The reason we were so successful is because of the relationships we forged, seeing each other at our strongest and weakest. The acts of service we did for each other manifested into emotion and doing.”
It was this emotion that drove Jamie’s teammate Kevin Sinfield to undertake his first ‘7 in 7’ challenge. He would run seven marathons in seven days, aiming to raise £77,777 MND Association.
As a result of COVID restrictions, major UK broadcasters like the BBC were unable to document Kevin’s momentous feat. That’s where RAM Films came in.
“We didn’t go into this project expecting anything from it,” explained Jimmy Bray, head of production at RAM Films. “We did it because it was the right thing to do. It was all about raising awareness.”
RAM Films captured the emotional highs and lows of Kevin’s seven marathons in seven days, and gave the final product to Leeds Rhinos to host on their YouTube channel. The awareness raised from Kevin’s run and RAM Films’ documentary resulted in an overwhelming outpouring of support from the public – and a whopping £2.7m in donations for MND Association.
“It started off for Rob Burrow, but it became about Rob Burrow and MND because of the awareness that Kev raised,” said Jimmy.
In 2021, Kevin set off on the Extra Mile Challenge. He ran the 104-mile stretch from Leicester Tigers’ Stadium to the Leeds Rhinos’ home ground in 24 hours with no sleep. Then, last November, Kevin embarked on his most daunting run yet – the ‘Ultra 7 in 7’ challenge. Setting off from the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Kevin ran seven ultra-marathons in seven days, finally running onto the pitch at Old Trafford for the half-time whistle at the Rugby League World Cup final.
Several news outlets covered these stories, with the BBC eventually making their own documentary, ‘Kevin Sinfield: Going the Extra Mile.’
But RAM Films were there from the very beginning. They had forged a unique relationship with Kevin and captured exclusive footage along the way.
After producing films about all three of Kevin’s epic challenges, RAM Films held an exclusive VIP premiere for their 90-minute documentary ‘UL7RA – The Inside Story’ in February 2023 ahead of its TV premiere on Sky Sports.
“The premiere became the biggest event RAM has ever had,” said Jimmy. “Since we stepped up to film Kevin’s first ‘7 in 7’ challenge, we’ve built relationships with the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky, and they used our footage for their own reporting and documentaries. This success is all because we chose to do the right thing.
“As a business, doing the right thing can lead to opportunities you never anticipated.”
Finally, after viewing a short snippet from the documentary and a few audience questions for Jamie and Jimmy, it was time for the HUB team to wave adieu to RAM Films.
HUB would like to extend a huge thank you to Jamie Jones Buchanan and Jimmy Bray for an extremely powerful and emotional presentation – and for inspiring us all to keep on doing the right thing!