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Three takeaways from Diabetes UK’s launch year of Dress Diabolical

Three takeaways from Diabetes UK’s launch year of Dress Diabolical

Diabetes UK held its first mass participation non-sporting fundraising event at Halloween. Natalie Fischer, Development Manager at Diabetes UK, shares three lessons learnt from developing Dress Diabolical.

1. Do you want to tap or challenge a behaviour?

Diabetes UK already has a successful mass participation event – Spring’s Swim22 – so working with large audiences isn’t new to us. However, we wanted to build appeal to people beyond sport with an event we could build on year on year.

We hired an agency to work up some ideas and one stood out: Dress Diabolical. Interestingly, they didn’t suggest it as a Halloween-specific event. But with Halloween proving to be one of the few calendar dates without a charity event based on it at the time, it was a no-brainer to put the two together.

Picking Halloween also answered one of the basic questions facing a new campaign: are you looking to challenge people’s behaviour, such as RNLI’s H2Only campaign, or tap into an ingrained behaviour, like dressing up for Halloween?

This lent itself to targeting groups of people who would be together on the day of Dress Diabolical, the Friday before Halloween. We had lots of school classes dress up in support of pupils with Type 1 diabetes and will be specifically targeting schools next year. And offices were also targeted as a ripe environment to ask people to dress up: we are looking to make the sign-up process easier for businesses to get more workplaces involved next year.

2. Raid your knowledge base, but make it relevant to the new event

Dress Diabolical - Halloween event for Diabetes UK

Starting to piece together the operations for the event brought up daunting questions: how would people get signed up? How would we track income? What supporter journey would we put in place? And what data would we collect?

We could answer each of these questions from our existing events experience; the challenge was answering them in a coherent way that ensured all roads led back to the event itself.

The solution: run everything through a microsite. It served as a central repository for all information, resources and inspiration, with a clear sign-up point to get people involved. It was also a clear home for downloadable materials and event updates to build interest until the big day. The microsite became the centre of the whole operation.

3. Get people to sign up and finesse the fundraising ask

Dress Diabolical’s clear theme meant it was no surprise that the marketing was a success. An early set of photos of skeletons and witches going about their daily work was a hit from day one. We produced in-house a video developing the theme, which was named as The Drum’s Halloween Video of the Day.

And we even secured a quote from Tim Burton to back our campaign (“The strange picture of ghosts, goblins, pirates and vampires walking the streets of the UK appeals to me on many levels,” he said). Together they provided our social media and press teams with lots of resources to promote the campaign.

Director Tim Burton - photo: Leah Gallo

Director Tim Burton supported the campaign – photo: Leah Gallo

The marketing helped drive sign-up, but the question remained on whether we wanted to ask people to text to donate to take part, or get them to seek sponsorship. In the end we led on a sponsorship ask, while also including a text to donate number. With revenue coming in from both, we will be looking at which is the best option to provide a clear ask next year.

We’ve built a strong base and positive supporter feedback. Our social media channels were flooded with dressed-up supporters on the day, reaching over 650,000 impressions on social media, and the videos were viewed over 125,000 times. The evidence suggests that lots of people will be back in costume next year. We are now reviewing all the evidence to get hundreds more people to join them. After all, there are only 334 costume shopping days until next Halloween…



Natalie Fischer is Development Manager at Diabetes UK.


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