Case study: British Heart Foundation

The charity offers health checks in supermarket car parks. But is it an effective way to build the brand?

British Heart Foundation Heart Health Roadshow
British Heart Foundation Heart Health Roadshow

While many charities turn to social media and other modern ways of getting their messages across, the British Heart Foundation has been taking an old-fashioned approach to campaigning.The charity turns up in a lorry in supermarket car parks and invites people in for free health checks or advice on heart problems.

It began as a pilot project in 2008 called BHF Live in Newcastle and Sunderland. "I was thinking about how we could get messages out to the areas of the country that are most affected by heart disease," says Andrew Johnson, project manager for roadshows at the charity.

People in deprived areas are at greater risk of heart disease than those in more affluent ones, so the charity decided to take its message directly to them. The pilot project showed the charity there was demand for free health checks. It also found that many people with existing heart conditions wanted more specific help. So in 2009 the charity began a 45-week Heart Health Roadshow, visiting east London, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

It hires a 10-metre mobile exhibition unit from Event Marketing Solutions and turns up from 10am to 6pm, Tuesday to Saturday, in busy areas, usually supermarkets, with a team including a dietitian and heart nurse. The unit has four consultation booths, touch-screen information displays and videos. Visitors get a free lifestyle check and their body mass index is measured before they are given three things to work on.

"It's quite old-school," says Johnson. "It's about parking outside Asda and saying 'we are here'.'"

The initiative, which costs £750,000 a year, has three objectives: to give advice to people who need it most; to build the BHF brand in the community; and to develop long-term relationships with potential donors by asking them to join Heart Matters, the BHF membership scheme.

Johnson says up to 150 people visit the van every day: 62 per cent join Heart Matters and 73 per cent go on to make changes to their lifestyles.

It might not be the most cutting-edge approach to campaigning, but Johnson says it's an effective way for charities to communicate with people they struggle to reach.


NICK MOFFAT, Creative partner, Proximity London

It's all very well reading labels on food packaging or being told to eat five portions of fruit or vegetables a day, but nothing's going to make you think about your lifestyle like personal medical advice.

Going on the road might not be a worthwhile activity for many charities, but it is ideal for the British Heart Foundation - free check-ups and advice are the perfect way to get its message across.

Two things would have made this campaign even more effective for me. First, the charity could have made more of the fundraising aspect of it - without putting people off, of course. It's not an easy balance to strike.

Second, perhaps it could also have taken its check-ups and advice into offices. Getting to shoppers is all very well, but talking to coffee-swilling heavy drinkers with high blood pressure might be even better.

Creativity: 3
Delivery: 4
7 out of 10

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