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Greatest show on Earth is great showcase for charities

Never knowingly underdone, the build up to the 2010 World Cup seems to have gone on forever in England. There is something in our national character that ensures that even the most sceptical and cynical amongst us join the collective gorging on the myth of the England team. We believe that this time, finally, it is our time. Again. Not qualifying for the 2008 European Championships ensured that the build up started even earlier this time around, as did the hope instilled by manager Fabio Capello. It has also turned the country World Cup crazy on a level not seen since 1990.
Events of national interest are always good tools for publicity, so the World Cup creates fantastic opportunities for creative fundraisers. A few such campaigns have caught my eye over the last few weeks for their innovative nature and for the smart and savvy PR around them.
The first and most visual campaign was UNICEF’s SoccerAid, a football match played between an England X1 and a Rest of the World X1. Interest was piqued by the inclusion in the Rest of the World team of some of football’s greatest names, including Luis Figo, Henrik Larrsson, and even a certain Zinedine Zidane. The England team featured a raft of celebrities familiar to anyone who has watched previous SoccerAids, such as Robbie Williams, Ralf Little and Ben Sheppard. The event was an incredible success, filling 65,000 seats at Old Trafford and broadcast live on ITV. In total, UNICEF received over £2,000,000 worth of pledges, and 55,000 phone calls were made during the live show itself.
Another campaign that many people will have seen is the former England manager Terry Venables’ cover of the Elvis song ‘If I Can Dream’. Proceeds from the single, which reached number 23 in the UK chart, go to Help for Heroes and Malaria No More. Backed by The Sun, the campaign received substantial coverage through a series of well co-ordinated PR stunts, not least El Tel performing on top of an O2 arena specially daubed in St George’s crosses. Using the tagline of ‘maybe, just maybe’ the song has been claimed as an unofficial anthem for England’s chances in the World Cup. The Sun’s influence, with their inherent understanding of and reach to football fans in England, has clearly been vital here.

The charities benefiting from the single also seem well chosen. Help for Heroes is officially supported by The Sun and receives excellent coverage through the paper’s wide-reach and appeal. Malaria No More is a smaller charity but one which is particularly relevant to a World Cup held in Africa, where malaria is endemic in 11 countries in which the illness accounts for up to 91% of deaths. Many footballers at the World Cup have suffered from malaria, including Manchester City and Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure, who has helped with media coverage by giving interviews on the subject.
With alcohol sales shooting up across the country during the tournament, the final campaign that has caught my eye is DrinkAware’s ‘Hoof It!’ Without the same level of publicity of the previous two campaigns, ‘Hoof It!’ has quietly picked up a few ‘campaign of the week’ awards. Encouraging people to ‘Drink less, play more’, DrinkAware gave away 10,000 footballs across the country, each featuring health tips to keep people active during the world cup. Whether you’re partying the night away or drowning your sorrows, the calories in a pint of lager can be worked off with a 20 minute kick around, and this kind of campaign helps promote a potentially unpopular matter. Drink Aware’s campaign is both fun and informative, while the ‘Moobs Alert!’ page on their website has ended up in many inboxes.

The three campaigns mentioned are fundamentally different in the causes they represent, the PR surrounding them and what they have sought to do. However, each one uses the hype and publicity surrounding the World Cup and positions it within their own brand, whether that means a cause which is particularly strong in Africa like malaria, or a British one like Help for Heroes. By leveraging the strength of feeling and global excitement surrounding the World Cup, each cause has promoted their brand in a unique and engaging way, as commercial brands have done over the years; this is something that other charities, regardless of size, must learn to do if they wish to be effective in the modern world of marketing.
Photo: Shine 2010 on
Paul Ovenden works in Legacy Marketing at the NSPCC and has written for the Sunday Telegraph, as well as various sports magazines, fanzines and blogs.