Campaign case study: Glasses raised to January's dry run

Dryathlon challenged social drinkers to take a month-long break from alcohol during January 2013, raising sponsorship from their friends and colleagues for doing so.

Not here for the beer: Cancer Research UK received £4m after 35,000 people took part in its Dryathlon challenge
Not here for the beer: Cancer Research UK received £4m after 35,000 people took part in its Dryathlon challenge

Campaign Dryathlon
Client        Cancer Research UK
PR teams  In-house and Unity
Timescale  November 2012-February 2013
Budget      £23,000

•  To reach the target audience through national and regional PR
•  To boost awareness and generate interest in the campaign
•  To drive people to the website to sign up
•  To encourage donations
•  To dovetail with social media activity

Strategy and plan
The PR strategy focused on the willpower element of Dryathlon – challenging people to test themselves and their friends to go the distance in a fun and engaging way, rather than focusing on any health benefits of not drinking for a month.  

The first stage launched to the trade press, followed by a national campaign launch on 3 December. The team released a survey looking at willpower in greater detail. This was followed with a second survey during the Christmas party season looking at what men think they are like when drunk, compared with what women think.  

New Year’s resolutions coverage was also piggybacked with a survey about top things that people gave up and how long their willpower lasted. Alongside this news coverage, journalists were invited to become Dryathletes and given kits that included a personalised running vest. Meanwhile, selected celebrities took
part and offered mentorship to other Dryathletes with regular personalised social media support.

To regionalise the launch, tailored stats on local cancer diagnosis rates and information from the willpower survey were used to keep it feeling relevant. This was followed by a wave of photocalls, again highlighting the willpower element of the campaign, coupled with moving stories on cancer survivors.

In January, accusations that the campaign could encourage binge drinking stirred a debate, with potential reputational threat to the charity. As part of a response, case studies of people whose booze-free month had led to a healthier relationship with alcohol were put forward. All of the work was backed up by an integrated social media campaign.

Measurement and evaluation
The campaign generated 35 pieces of national print coverage including in The Sun, The Guardian and Daily Express. There were 12 national broadcast stories including on The Wright Stuff, Sky News, BBC Breakfast and Newsnight, and 48 online items, including on Mail Online and BBC News, as well as three blogs. There were more than 600 items of regional coverage.

The charity gained 21,000 likes for the Facebook page in ten weeks, while on Twitter, it gained 2,000 followers with 10,000 mentions.

Overall, 35,000 people took part, raising £4m for Cancer Research UK. Forty-eight per cent of registrations came from outside the two core advertising regions. Dryathlon is to be repeated in 2014.

Second Opinion

Fiona Thorne, CEO, Fishburn Hedges

A fundraising campaign is judged by one key outcome – how much it raised, minus what was spent.
By that standard, the Dryathlon has to be deemed a runaway success, with a budget of £23,000 against £4m raised.

Why did it work so well?  At the heart of the best behaviour change campaigns is one strong human insight that is turned into a creative idea. This was precisely the premise on which Dryathlon was based.

Cancer Research UK tapped into the fact that our well-intentioned desire at the start of January to try to be healthier/give something up usually ends in lamentable failure as our willpower crumbles.

The core idea and the way the campaign was brought to life through media, social media and online resources all supported this concept beautifully.

Wisely, the campaign did not focus specifically on the health benefits of a booze-free month,
so when the inevitable challenge came from some quarters on this specific point, the campaign was not derailed. All in all, it was an impressive campaign – I might even give Dryathlon a try in 2014.

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