CAMPAIGNS: Bear makes South Pole venture pay - Charity PR

Client: Sense, The National Deafblind and Rubella Association

Client: Sense, The National Deafblind and Rubella Association

Campaign: Catharine Hartley’s walk across Antarctica to the South


PR Team: In-house and Meridian Corporate Communications

Timescale: October 1999 - February 2000

Budget: Less than pounds 800

At the end of September 1999 Catharine Hartley approached Sense,

offering to raise money for the charity. Having recently completed a

sign-language course, she wanted to support people with multi-sensory

impairment and planned to do this through her expedition to become the

first British woman to walk across Antarctica to the South Pole.

Travel insurer Club Direct was already sponsoring the expedition, so

Sense worked directly with the company’s PR agency, Meridian Corporate



To raise money for Sense by improving its profile nationally. To promote

Hartley’s fundraising efforts.

Strategy and Plan

Once Sense received Hartley’s offer of help its in-house team of press

and PR officer Georgia Veats and communications director Stephen

Bromberg contacted Meridian Corporate Communications to co-ordinate

press work.

The two teams wanted a PR angle that could be conveyed visually and

would appeal to a wide audience. They decided to create a

specially-branded teddy bear to accompany Hartley on her expedition.

Upon her return the bear would be auctioned on the internet to raise

funds for the charity.

A rare ’Britannia’ bear - one of the series of highly collectable Baby

Beanies - was bought and named Christopher and dressed in a T-shirt

bearing the Sense and Club Direct logos.

The team made sure that all media calls focused on Christopher. These

took place before Hartley left, when the internet auction was announced

on her return, and finally with the results of the auction. It was also

arranged that the only available pictures of Hartley on the expedition

included Christopher the bear.

Playing on the media’s recent interest in the growth of on-line auction

sites, Sense linked up with Sotheby’s to auction the bear. The auction

house provided its services free of charge.

Interest in the bear was generated through the internet. Beanie

enthusiast web-sites were targeted, on-line news stories were posted and

rumours circulated via on-line chat rooms.

Once the auction ended, Sense liaised with Sotheby’s to identify

Christopher the bear’s new owner. The highest bidder was found to be a

British woman who had bought the bear as a Valentine’s gift for her

husband. The story was sold into the national and regional press.

Measurement and Evaluation

Hartley raised pounds 2,000 for the charity, and the campaign allowed

Sense to target the press three times. The expedition and the auction

were covered in a number of national newspapers, including pictures of

Hartley and Christopher in his Sense branded T-shirt being featured in

the Daily Mail, the Express and the Daily Telegraph. The Express

coverage included an exclusive Valentine’s Day story. Radio 5 Live, the

BBC and ITV London news programmes, 22 regional newspapers, one regional

radio station and 15 magazines also ran the story.


Sense’s campaign was a success. The tie-up of the Sense-branded

’Britannia’ Beanie Bear with the first British woman to cross the

Antarctic provided a quirky news hook that would appeal to a broad range

of people.

The fact that the pictures from Hartley’s expedition, and the subsequent

auction, all featured Christopher in the logo-branded T-shirt meant that

all coverage of the event would clearly communicate the Sense brand to

people. And by tapping into current areas of public and media interest -

in Beanies and on-line auctions - this exposure was reinforced.

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