Campaigns: Voluntary Sector - Conquering cancer - and the 'seven seas'

Campaign: The Ellen MacArthur Trust/Skandia Round Britain Voyage of
Client: The Ellen MacArthur Trust and Skandia
PR team: Into the Blue
Timescale: April-September 2009
Budget: £25,000

The Ellen MacArthur Trust takes young people aged eight to 18 sailing to help them regain confidence on their way to recovery from cancer and leukaemia. The Round Britain project mirrored MacArthur's first solo voyage around Britain in 1995. A total of 74 young people were taken sailing across 17 different legs. The voyage set sail from Cowes on the Isle of Wight and covered 2,500 nautical miles, stopping at more than 50 ports or anchorages around Britain. At each major stopover, MacArthur gave a public talk on her life and career, with ticket proceeds going directly to the trust.


- To raise the profile of The Ellen MacArthur Trust

- To increase donations to the trust

- To raise brand and media awareness aligning Skandia with the voyage.

Strategy and plan

An archive video and photoshoot of the boat sailing and young people carrying out everyday activities on board was organised ahead of the launch and made available for broadcasters to download throughout the voyage. The footage was made generic so it could be used at any point by any region.

An online media centre was set up so press could download images, video content, profiles of the young people taking part, CVs of the crew and background information about the voyage.

A video was created on each leg of the voyage and made available through the official voyage website as well as on the trust's YouTube channel. Photographs from the voyage were uploaded on to Flickr and linked through the Round Britain website.

The skipper, mate and every young person all tweeted at least once a day throughout the voyage and blogs for the skipper, the crew, the shore team and MacArthur were set up and regularly updated.

A week before the boat arrived at each stopover, press releases and profiles of the young people were released to the media. Opportunities were also found for national and regional print and broadcast media at each stage of the voyage.

Significant stopover destinations including Hull - where MacArthur began her earlier voyage in 1995 - were chosen to add a news hook and increase media interest.

Journalists were offered the opportunity to sail on board with MacArthur to learn about the work of the trust, allowing the trust to make contact with new journalists. National media were targeted at key moments in the voyage, such as the start, sailing under Tower Bridge and the appearance at the Southampton Boat Show.

Measurement and evaluation

The voyage generated more than 250 pieces of national, local and trade press coverage, as well as more than 60 broadcast hits.


The voyage raised more than £18,000 for the trust and more than 200 people pledged to 'buy a mile' on the official voyage website. The trust also received numerous offers of support from individuals and corporates as a result of the exposure.

SECOND OPINION: Peter Gilheany, Director, Forster

In 2006, David Walliams swam across the Channel for Sport Relief and the media went doolally over his achievement. This year, Eddie Izzard ran a barely believable 43 marathons in 51 days and got some nice but muted national coverage. At this rate, next year's celebrity is going to have to pogo their way to Bhutan blindfolded in a mankini just to crack the regional press.

Charity challenge inflation is raging and the media and the public need to be seriously impressed before they give coverage or dip into their pockets. Our 'who cares?' reflex is hard to overcome.

So the omens didn't look good for this campaign. 'Ellen MacArthur sails slowly around the coast of Britain' isn't going to shift many papers, which makes the coverage actually generated all the more impressive.

The focus on the inspirational stories of the young people, the access given to them and the sheer effort that went into providing every variety of content possible through the website and social media paid dividends. Then there's the Dame herself, who has a lot of credit with the media.

On paper the amount raised looks modest, but this is probably offset by an increased profile for the charity and the recruitment of some new committed donors.

The only thing missing for me is a campaigning edge. I would have liked the voyage to have been used as a platform to highlight the lack of post-treatment support for young people with cancer. It would have given the story greater depth.

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