This partnership celebrated its tenth birthday last year and has endured, prospered even, while its two partners have undergone some big internal changes. Age Concern was merged into Age UK in 2010, while Innocent Drinks, originally the possession of its three founders, has been owned by Coca-Cola for the past five years. But James Peach, UK brand manager with Innocent, describes the post-Age Concern transition as seamless. "If anything it got slightly better because there was more resource from Age UK’s side," he says. "And it’s a very resource-heavy partnership." Innocent remains a stand-alone company and Coke haven’t touched the Big Knit campaign, says Peach.
The campaign is resource-heavy because of its dual nature. Teams of knitters have to be assembled each year, from local branches of Age UK and businesses, to knit the hats which are then sold atop Innocent smoothies. A 25p donation goes to Age UK for each drink purchased; and the number of woolly hats has risen exponentially. 10,000 were knitted in the partnership’s first year in 2003, which rose to 1m by 2013. £1.75m has been raised in 11 years, and £250,000 alone was raised in 2013.
Head of fundraising at Age UK, Laurie Boult, says the partnership, though a significant income generator, is not just about the money. It also addresses the issue of loneliness among older people, and is Age UK’s most high-profile corporate partnership. "When we are recruiting, for example, within the corporate team, everyone that comes for an interview always mentions the Innocent partnership," she says.