CAMPAIGN: Van helps Blue Square hit the bullseye

Following its sponsorship of the UK Open Darts Championships (aka the FA Cup of Darts), online bookmaker Blue Square wanted to deepen its overall association with darts and encourage the public to play the traditional pub game.

Campaign: Save Our Darts
Client: Blue Square
PR Team: Van Communications
Timescale: March to April 2007
Budget: £20,000

To associate Blue Square with darts. To drive traffic to the Blue Square website. To increase the volume of darts betting via Blue Square.

The ‘Save Our Darts’ campaign was a bid to bring darts back to the pub landscape. Van Communications commissioned an ICM poll to help prove that the beloved institution of pub darts was under threat from the gastro-pub.

The research found just one in ten Brits has enjoyed a game of darts in the past year. Five years ago 41 per cent enjoyed a game of ‘arrows’, so this marked a serious decline.

It also discovered four in ten young men (in their twenties) have never thrown a dart in their lives, and only half (53 per cent) of British boozers havea dart board.

According to the poll, today’s drin­ker prefers a pub with adventurous food, extensive wine lists, comfy sofas and good music.

But the research also discovered 66 per cent of Brits are nostalgic for darts and would play if their local pub had a dart board.

Van used this story to launch Blue Square’s campaign to get 10,000 dart boards reinstated in pubs by 2017. The public were invited to sign a petition on the campaign’s website (­ and Van also started campaigns on MySpace and FaceBook.

Van approached darts’ world No 1, Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, and darts governing body PDC to back the campaign. Both did so free of charge. Taylor agreed to carry out radio, TV and press interviews for nothing, mentioning the Blue Square campaign and the Save Our Darts website in all of them.

Van also approached Prince Charles, impressing him so much that he walked into his next ‘Pub is the Hub’ campaign meeting at Clarence House brandishing three darts. Virgin Radio’s breakfast radio DJ Christian O’Connell invited celebrities for a game of darts and linked from the Virgin Radio website. MP Tom Watson proposed an early day motion to save darts.

In-house evaluation counted 130 pieces of Blue Square or Save Our Darts branded editorial coverage.

National broadcast coverage included Sky Sports, Sky Sports News, Sky News, Channel 5, BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, TalkSport and Virgin Radio. Sky Sport’s Soccer AM All Sport Show ran a five-minute feature on the campaign.

Coverage appeared in The Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Daily Mirror, The Guardian, Metro, The Sunday Times, Observer Sport Monthly, Daily Star, Racing Post and Daily Sport. The campaign was also picked up on over 35 websites, 30 regional newspapers and trade press.

Within a month of its launch, the News of the World ran a darts-themed April Fool’s story – the introduction of a (Blue) square dartboard.

The campaign saw a 13 per cent rise in Blue Square’s web traffic. The activity also played a part in increasing Blue Square’s turnover by 35 per cent compared with the same period last year. All the coverage delivered either Save Our Darts or Blue Square branding.


Gavin Lewis (right), campaigns director, Resonate: Due to a horrible childhood incident with a dart and my cheek I should, by rights, hate the ‘arrows’. But the sport has always felt so warm and accessible and you cannot help but be hypnotised by this noble game.

Today darts may be unfashion­able, but for Blue Square’s target audience it evokes nostalgia and a capacity to throw up the most unlikely spor­ting heroes. The trick was to tap into these emotions and make darts relevant.

By identifying the problems facing the sport and pledging to help solve them, ‘Save Our Darts’ created a great campaign platform that could take the game into the news agenda. And the feat of getting the poster boy of the game, Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, to front the camp­aign for free was a rare feat.

Save Our Darts really became impressive when Prince Charles joined in. Capit­al­ising on Prince Charles’ other ventures quite rightly generated coverage.

The campaign deepens Blue Square’s association with darts; it has invigorated darts betting; and, after signing up to the Save Our Darts online petition, I discov­ered a vibrant community happily growing under the company’s banner.

Blue Square has carved a niche as a fun and irreverent gambling brand, appealing directly to both the target market and, impor­tantly, the target tabloid-biased media.

I hope to see the dartboard return to the local pub.


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