WORKSHOP: Case Study - Cystic Fibrosis breathes life into ads

JOHN PLUMMER

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Background: Centrica employs 30,000 people across brands that include the AA, British Gas, Goldfish and One.Tel. So when the company adopted Cystic Fibrosis as its fundraising charity of the year in 2001, clearly it had the clout to make a difference even to such a major charity.

One in 25 people carry the cystic fibrosis gene, which affects breathing and digestion. As breathing is central to cystic fibrosis, the concept of "Breathing Life

was adopted as a media-friendly idea of stimulating interest in the campaign.

"The Breathing Life partnership was formed to do exactly what the name suggests,

says Jo Bayliss, Centrica's community affairs officer. "To breathe life into the lives of those affected by cystic fibrosis and help raise awareness of this chronic condition."

Aims of the campaign: The main aim was to raise £150,000 to fund research at the trust. The campaign also set out to enhance public understanding of cystic fibrosis and to promote the trust's work.

For Centrica, the campaign provided an opportunity to demonstrate corporate social responsibility as well as cultivate pride among staff by showing they belonged to a caring organisation.

How it worked: The use of bubbles to illustrate the breathing theme proved an inexpensive and highly successful way of attracting media attention.

The creative's visual appeal secured coverage in The Times, The Big Issue, Metro and regional publications. The campaign also generated publicity by adopting a life-size mascot known as "the genie", whose presence added an extra photo opportunity to each event.

The clever marketing was supported by an enthusiastic take-up among Centrica staff, who gleaned news of what was happening and how to take part through local champions.

Some AA employees rose to the challenge by posing for a novelty nude calendar. More traditional fundraising activities included taking part in events such as the Scottish Gas Road Race, the London Marathon and National Sausage Week, a fundraising event staged each year by the trust. Sausage Week proved stunningly successful, particularly from a PR perspective as TV chef Brian Turner endorsed the campaign and agreed to appear in a media photo call.

Results: The final figure has yet to be calculated but the campaign broke the £400,000 mark, more than double its target. Positive PR has surpassed all expectations: by February it had resulted in more than 250 newspaper cuttings, 30 radio interviews and local TV coverage. The breathing theme proved headline-friendly, with "Breathing Life and Bringing Hope

and "Breathing New Life into Charity Funds

among the most popular. The forecasted press coverage was 20 million opportunities to see. To date, it has already generated 24,655,544 regional opportunities to see and 11,616,513 national ones, which suggests the awareness-raising goal has been achieved.

The campaign received industry recognition with the Institute of Public Relations excellence award for corporate social responsibility. Actress Jenny Agutter, whose niece has cystic fibrosis, and BBC Watchdog presenter Kate Sanderson, attended an event two days later at which Centrica chief executive Sir Roy Gardner presented trust chief executive Rosie Barnes with a cheque for £400,000.

"We have achieved far more than we ever thought possible,

says Gardner.

"Not only have we smashed the £150,000 target which we set ourselves, we have also helped to raise public awareness."

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