Ramblers seeks youth through image revamp

The Ramblers Association wants to throw off its image as an organisation of knock-kneed hikers by launching a campaign to attract younger supporters.

"We realise that our public image is often unhelpful when trying to reach young people," said chief executive Nick Barrett. "There's no denying that it's easy to stereotype ramblers and we're very conscious that this has to change if we're to recruit the next wave of supporters and volunteers."

The charity aims to identify the aspects of its work that appeal to younger people, such as the freedom to roam bill, and encourage them to fight for their right to walk through rural areas.

The association is also thinking of different ways to sell the message.

Its first viral marketing campaign encourages recipients to pass on an email containing a video clip of two young ramblers in which one falls down a hole.

The web site, www.ramblers. org.uk, reflects the new agenda by including articles such as Madonna's alleged spat with ramblers passing through her Ashcombe Estate in Wiltshire.

"We haven't been as smart as we could be about presenting our campaigning to a wider audience," said Barrett. "Many of the rural liberties we take for granted are down to the Ramblers, and younger supporters will be able to see how important this is.

"I'm cynical about investing money that we don't really have into trying to make the rambler fashionable, because that just won't be at all sustainable and has the potential to horribly backfire," he said.

Barrett said that the email campaign typifies the approach the charity intends to take when approaching the youth market. "The video clip is the first thing we've created that would interest my own children and shows that we're starting to move closer to understanding the motivations of a younger supporter market.

"This is not a flash-in-the-pan campaign - it's an approach that we're going to have to work on getting right" said Barrett. "In terms of a mass-membership organisation we've got a long way to go but we've got to start somewhere."

He said that the charity had considered changing its name, but had decided against the move because of the high public awareness of the organisation and the work that it does under its current title.

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