Partnerships with football clubs have become a familiar way for charities to reach large numbers of people and raise awareness as well as money. But the sector is beginning to exploit the potential of other sports too. Just before Christmas, the Drinkaware Trust linked up with rugby union's Guinness Premiership to promote its responsible drinking message.
Events took place at Guinness Premiership home grounds to coincide with matches on 20 December. Flyers advising Christmas revellers not to drink on empty stomachs and to plan journeys home were distributed to 70,000 rugby supporters. Perimeter advertising boards were changed to display responsible drinking messages, films were shown on scoreboards and match-day programmes carried features on the subject. Premiership rugby players also took part in publicity for the day. Two players were photographed in underwater tanks at Pinewood Studios to illustrate the importance of rehydration for drinkers.
Emily May, communication officer at the trust, describes the campaign as a "successful, impactful way to get our message across".
The trust was established in November 2006 with the intent of promoting sensible drinking and tackling alcohol-related problems, and is funded by the drinks industry. But its business partnerships have until now been limited to point-of-sale awareness campaigns with retailers, such as Tesco, to inform customers about alcohol consumption.
The move into rugby was an initiative of Chris Sorek, the trust's chief executive, who joined last November. "He was very keen to get rugby on board," says May. "It has a reputation for being quite boozy and we wanted to get across the message that elite rugby players don't drink very much. And by targeting rugby supporters at club matches, we are reaching out to local communities."
Premier Rugby, the umbrella organisation that represents the 12 clubs of the Guinness Premiership, first dipped its toe into charity partnerships last year when it dedicated a round of matches to raising money for Breast Cancer Care. More than £30,000 was donated. "That proved that the premiership was a good platform for creating a partnership with a charity," says Jon Duckworth, head of marketing and promotions at Premier Rugby.
The partnership with the trust stemmed from the league's sponsor, Guinness, whose owner, Diageo, is keen to spread the responsible drinking message. "It was a question of looking to see which organisations we could get on board to offer an independent voice," says Duckworth. "We looked at the Government's anti-drink driving campaign, Think, but felt the trust was the best fit."
The partnership will continue with a social inclusion programme, which will be developed in 2009 by Premier Rugby for youngsters in deprived areas near to Guinness Premiership rugby clubs. The trust will provide key messages for the programme.