CAMPAIGNS: Race for life fires Cancer Research UK - Charity PR

Client: Cancer Research UK PR Team: In-house Campaign: Tenth anniversary of Cancer Research UK Race for Life Timescale: November 2002-August 2003 Budget: £6,000

The Cancer Research Campaign and Imperial Cancer Research merged in February 2002 to form Cancer Research UK. It is responsible for about two-thirds of UK cancer research and 98 per cent of that is paid for by donations, so it needs to keep raising enough money for cancer treatment, cures and prevention research. The Race for Life is a series of annual women-only races. Tesco is a sponsor.


To encourage greater participation in this year's event.

To raise money for research into cancers that affect women and promote the Cancer Research UK brand. To promote Tesco's sponsorship and present Race for Life as ideal for women wishing to become more active and encourage regular exercise.

Strategy and Plan

With a target audience solely of women and working with a tight budget, the challenge was to keep the media's attention over the ten-month period.

The campaign kicked off last November with a video presentation and speakers including Cancer Research UK patron and TV presenter Sarah Greene. Journalists from women's magazines were invited to the event, with the aim of inspiring participation and generating feature coverage.

The team then focused its attention on targeting the national and regional newspapers, broadcasters and women's magazines with stories on individual supporters of the charity and the race.

In February, the team organised a press conference to coincide with the launch of the event's website and hotline. To show the Race for Life events are for everybody, the PR team presented a MORI poll which revealed that most women do not exercise enough. On the eve of the first race, the charity held a photo call with presenter and former athlete Sally Gunnell.

Measurement and Evaluation

The event and the build-up generated coverage on ITN and BBC News, BBC Radio 1, 4 and Five Live, The Guardian, Daily Express and The Sun, online on Yahoo! and Reuters. Women's magazines, including OK!, Shape and Zest, ran stories, as did regional newspapers and radio. The campaign generated an estimated 25 per cent more coverage than last year.


Participation in the Race for Life grew by 50,000 runners to 300,000, and funds raised are expected to be in excess of the £17.5m target. In 2002, the event raised around £15m.

Zest features editor Susie Whalley said: 'The PR team was really professional.

They provided real-life cases and were fantastic at putting us in touch with celebrities.'

Karen Kay, contributor to the Mail on Sunday's You magazine, agreed: 'It's difficult to get across the passion of an event like this through a press release. The PR team found me some fantastic case studies and it was also adamant that the publicity should all be before the races. That way people touched by the stories could participate.'

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