AstraZeneca and Sponge win Silver Award at Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Learning Awards Progra

Coveted accolade for Best Advance in Compliance Training, recognizing measurable benefit and innovation

AstraZeneca, the global biopharmaceutical company and Sponge, a leader in innovative custom digital learning won a coveted Brandon Hall Group silver award for Excellence in Learning 2019.

Sponge and AstraZeneca’s success in the category of Best Advance in Compliance Training was announced online on Thursday, 22 August 2019 at a ‘virtual’ awards ceremony.

The two organizations have been recognized for their innovative collaboration to refresh AstraZeneca’s annual 2018 Code of Ethics programm as part of the company’s ongoing move to focus on principles, values and behaviors rather than rules of conduct.

Working in partnership with digital learning experts at Sponge, AstraZeneca set out to shift the perception of mandatory compliance training from a ‘have to do’ to a ‘want to do’ activity, firmly embedding ethics in the company’s DNA.

The award-winning integrated compliance campaign included multiple digital elements to support maximum employee engagement, promote meaningful conversations about ethics and enable global employees to participate via the device of their choice. More details about the project are available at

Louise Vamvoukaki, Director of Sustainability: Education and Engagement, AstraZeneca said: “The world in which we operate is changing and as L&D and compliance professionals we need to transform to meet that change. A principles-based Code of Ethics course helps empower our employees to know who we are and what we believe in, helping us all make good decisions. Bringing that message to life with a creative partner who combines engaging learning techniques with the latest technology has been a game changer for us and it is great to see this recognized.”

The new and innovative approach to learning implemented in partnership with Sponge has transformed the effectiveness of AstraZeneca’s compliance training. Completion rates increased by 13% compared to the previous year and a survey (2,226 respondents) revealed that 90% of employees felt very or extremely engaged with the learning.

Louise Pasterfield, founder and Managing Director, Sponge said: “Gaining international recognition in this way is a significant achievement and reflects the strong and collaborative relationship between Sponge and AstraZeneca. This project shows what can be achieved by combining technology and creativity to challenge conventional attitudes to compliance training, turning it from a ‘chore’ to a highly engaging experience.”

“Brandon Hall Group Excellence Awards Program has recognized leading organizations for the past twenty-plus years for the latest trends in Human Capital Management,” said Rachel Cooke, Brandon Hall Group COO and leader of the HCM Excellence Awards Program. “The initiatives that were honored are not only innovative but fit the unique needs of the business and create truly remarkable success stories.”

Award entries were evaluated by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group analysts and executives based upon the following criteria: fit the need, design of the program, functionality, innovation and overall measurable benefits.

Excellence Awards winners will be honored at Brandon Hall Group’s HCM Excellence Conference, February 4-6, 2020, at the Hilton West Palm Beach, Florida. Select winners also will serve as presenters in breakout sessions, sharing their leading practices during the conference.

“The HCM Excellence Awards recognize programs that measurably benefit organizations,” said Mike Cooke, Brandon Hall Group CEO. “Many human capital management departments are unable to confirm that their initiatives help the business’s bottom line. Because we focus on measurable benefits, our awards program is universally recognized and highly prestigious.”

The winners are listed at

Notes for editors:

About Sponge

Sponge is the largest independently-owned custom digital learning provider in Europe. We deliver seriously creative workplace training for some of the world’s largest brands – including Coca-Cola, Toyota, Specsavers, Tesco, AstraZeneca, AXA, the NHS, Royal Mail and the United Nations.

Our bespoke learning solutions solve multiple business challenges, from risk and compliance (e.g. cyber security and health and safety) to business transformation, people development (e.g. employee onboarding) and skills enhancement. Harnessing the very latest in cutting-edge technology, Sponge’s solutions include elearning, learning games and gamification, animation and motion graphics, immersive technologies (e.g. interactive video, simulations, virtual reality and augmented reality), microsites and blended learning. Our digital learning is used in more than 124 countries worldwide.

Winning multiple awards over the past 15 years, the company is a trail blazer in the digital learning industry. Sponge was named Learning Provider of the Year at 2019 Learning Awards and won silver for Company of the Year at the 2018 Learning Technologies Awards.


About Brandon Hall Group

Brandon Hall Group is an HCM research and advisory services firm that provides insights around key performance areas, including Learning and Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition and HR/Workforce Management.

With more than 10,000 clients globally and 25 years of delivering world-class research and advisory services, Brandon Hall Group is focused on developing research that drives performance in emerging and large organizations, and provides strategic insights for executives and practitioners responsible for growth and business results.


For further information, email Vicky Hayden at [email protected] or call +44 (0)1752 764825.


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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.