WORK SHOP: CASE STUDY - Starlight gets kids thinking of socks

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Background: Starlight Children's Foundation, a national charity that entertains children in hospital, has run the Design a Sock for Starlight competition for two years. However, until 2002 it had been a low-key fundraiser, only reaching Sock Shop customers via in-store promotional material.

The charity realised that the competition had much more potential and wanted to involve a wider audience, so this year it decided to target children via schools. PR and marketing manager, Luisa Clarke, says: "Fund-raising in schools is already a crowded area, but we had good feedback from the competition in its early days and felt that the idea was a strong one."

Aims: In the short term, the competition aimed to be a significant fundraiser for the charity, but also to raise awareness of Starlight among school children, their families and their teachers who may become long-term supporters of the charity.

How it worked: Art and design teachers at 30,000 UK schools were targeted via a mailing designed in-house and distributed by JEM Educational Marketing Services before the Easter term. Head teachers were also mailed and entry forms appeared in UK Sock Shops. Children were invited to design a sock based on the theme "If I had one wish". A minimum donation of £1 was requested for each entry.

In spring 2003, corporate sponsor the Sock Shop, will create real socks from four winning entries and 50p from each sock sold will be donated to Starlight. Each winner will receive £100 to spend on art materials and as an incentive to the art teachers, the winning children's art departments also receive £500.

Adam Hart-Davis, the enthusiastic TV presenter of What the Romans Did for Us and Science Shack, was asked to offer celebrity endorsement. Clarke says: "He is a respected figure in the education community but also someone that children appreciate because he is a fun, wacky character as well as being informative.

Hart-Davis agreed, offering feedback on the wording of the application forms, and set aside a day for publicity.

Starlight carried out the press campaign in-house. The Markettiers4dc, which had selected Starlight as its charity of the year and worked for free, targeted radio and online media.

Results: This year's competition saw a 10-fold increase in entries on the previous year with 6,000 sock designs from 500 schools. To date £10,000 has been raised, which Clarke believes is "an amazing figure, considering each child was only asked for a £1 donation".

This will rise when the socks go on sale next year.

The teaching press, women's and parenting magazines and children's publications covered the competition, along with articles in regional press and village newsletters. Hart-Davis and Clarke gave interviews on 12 regional radio stations and The Markettiers4dc syndicated an audio feature to a further 38 stations. The competition also featured on eight family, parenting and schools web sites.

"We are very pleased with the results of our first schools fundraising campaign and we will be building on them next year,

says Clarke. "There is no doubt that Hart-Davis's support gave the campaign an extra lift.

Starlight is now firmly established in the minds of art and design teachers, school children and parents across the country.

Julie Pybus.

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