CAMPAIGNS: BT highlights Comic Relief involvement - Sponsorship PR

Client: BT social policy unit PR Team: Sinclair Mason and Comic Relief press team Campaign: Illuminating the BT Tower red for Red Nose Day Timescale: December 2002 - February 2003 Budget: £68,000

BT has been supporting Comic Relief's Red Nose Day since its launch in 1988. But as part of its efforts to inject fresh energy into the sponsorship, and to tackle the onset of charity fatigue, new tactics were needed.

Sinclair Mason worked with the in-house team on a plan to light London's BT Tower red.

As part of the campaign, BT also wanted to counter innumerable negative reports in previous years, surrounding Oftel rules that force the telecoms giant to charge for the telephone services. Previously, reports failed to acknowledge that the company redonates the money it charges.


To deliver a high-profile launch surrounding BT's involvement with Comic Relief and to counter misunderstandings over the role that BT plays in the fund-raising event. To distinguish BT's role from other sponsors such as Sainsbury's, Oxfam and Littlewoods.

Strategy and Plan

BT, Comic Relief, Sinclair Mason and CBBC say the idea was a joint one, with the children's TV channel planning a 20-minute documentary on the lighting up project. This was broadcast during the week of Red Nose Day.

Sinclair Mason employed a specialist lighting firm, Fourth Phase London, to illuminate the 189-metre (620-foot) tower, which would require more than 100 different lights and 10km of cabling. It took 83 man-days to illuminate.

Comedian Graham Norton switched on the lights on the evening of 7 February, while his face and the Comic Relief logo were projected on to the tower, which stayed lit for the weekend. During the morning press briefing on Red Nose Day - 14 March - Lenny Henry promoted the illumination.

Measurement and Evaluation

The lighting-up received widespread coverage on the BBC, but an exclusivity deal with the corporation meant less coverage on other media.

Full coverage included the following: BBC One's Six O'Clock News, BBC News 24, a CBBC documentary on 14 March, BBC Radio 1 and Five Live, the Daily Mirror and over 50 regional newspapers, including the Express & Star, Leicester Mercury, Lancashire Evening Post, Liverpool Echo, South Wales Echo and Yorkshire Evening Post.

The picture was also carried on the front page of BT Today - BT's monthly publication that is distributed to over 100,000 BT employees, former employees and suppliers.


The BT Tower turned red on cue at the end of the Six O'Clock News. Before the launch, the Red Tower initiative had attracted wide publicity, resulting in 24,572 fundraising packs being requested within one week.

Sinclair Mason claimed that there was no negative coverage of the charge BT has to make but then hands back to the charity.

Ultimately, Comic Relief 2003 is expected to raise between £55m and £60m, with BT's role further underlined.

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