This innovative, multi-channel campaign was designed to increase the number of qualified stem cell donors for Anthony Nolan and the Rik Basra Leukaemia Trust. It aligned the University’s values with an exceptional public relations initiative, addressing a serious regional and national need. The campaign was planned in six weeks and enlisted more than 2,100 eligible donors who took a spit test and registered within just twelve hours. The judges found it especially notable that the University’s communications team was able to galvanise the entire community around the institution’s corporate social responsibility commitments.

Finalists:

  • drp and Barefoot Computing
    New Term Survival Guide
  • Imperial College Business School
    Connecting academics with the media
  • Keele University
    The #KeeleDifference
  • Tin Man and The Institution of Engineering and Technology
    #ISeeMore
  • University of Cambridge
    Breaking the Silence

Winner entry:

Brief and objectives:

Spit Happens was a ground-breaking, rapid turnaround collaboration between Loughborough University, Loughborough Students’ Union, Anthony Nolan and the Rik Basra Leukaemia Campaign to raise awareness of blood cancer and increase potential stem cell donor numbers. We aimed to recruit 2,000 fully qualified* donors from across campus within a single day to beat the previous record of 1,404 held by the University of Leicester within a budget of £3k and to recruit and pre-train at least 400 staff and student volunteers. Our secondary objective was to increase awareness of the need for stem cell donors through media coverage and social media.

*A qualified donor is 18-30, in good health, meeting minimum height/weight criteria and resident in the UK for the next 3 years.

Rationale behind campaign, including research and planning:

We drew on personal staff insight alongside insight from Anthony Nolan and Rik Basra around what would work logistically and in media terms. We collaborated with the Students’ Union to understand student motivations to help incentivise involvement. We pulled stats and data from existing national materials and used this in staff training whilst seeking opportunities on campus and via a focus group approach to help identify opportunities to encourage students and staff involvement.

Target audiences included staff and students and we also reached out to Loughborough College via colleagues there to encourage pick–up selectively as the College also teaches students who are too young to get involved and it wasn’t therefore appropriate to use a blanket approach.

Strategy and tactics, including creativity and innovation:

Spit Happens galvanised Loughborough’s entire community behind a common goal. The personal connection via one of our PVC’s own experience, the support of the Students’ Union Executive team and the VC, massive engagement from staff and students who gave up their time not only on the day but for a separate evening training session.

#SpitHappens captured the imagination and sparked massive engagement from our broader stakeholders across social – so many messages of support from alumni, staff and students; many of them people whose families had been impacted by the loss of a loved one or whose siblings, or children had got involved and of whom they were very proud.

We even recruited Visit Day attendees. One family held off on travelling all the way home to Bristol so their son could get involved because he felt it was just the right thing to do.

Implementation of tactics:

The campaign was developed and launched inside six weeks and smashed its targets.

A massively supported Thunderclap kick-started the campaign on social. Handstamps with the slogan “It’s cool to drool” lent themselves to social sharing alongside selfies of donors encouraging friends to get involved. Infographics, a “get involved” video from the VC to the #LboroFamily, and the personal story of one of our PVCs, a stem cell recipient in his own right, were shared extensively and gave the campaign a warm and incredibly personal, Loughborough feel. Leaflets in communal areas plus digital signage on desktops and screens helped keep the message front of mind.

We borrowed vans from our Creative and Print Services team to ferry supplies across campus; our social media team were pushing hard from 7.30am through to the final count-up at 8pm; we produced videos, infographics, images and perhaps more importantly, we secured whole campus buy-in on a Wednesday when many of our students are away competing at sporting events. We worked existing channels hard including our staff/student bulletins, website, emails, directly via Hall Chairs and the Students’ Unions clubs, societies and Executive team, posters on our bus shelters across campus (well-used by staff and students) and via PR and social media.

The atmosphere was electric, as we saw whole teams come and sign up late into the evening after travelling back from away fixtures and heard stories of those who were getting involved and had a personal connection to blood cancer through their own friends and family.

All measurement linked back to our original SMART objectives and we tracked take up, volunteer numbers, and various metrics linked to PR and social media impacts.

Measurement and evaluation:

The campaign smashed its targets.

We recruited 2,056 potential donors in 12 hours – statistically speaking, 12 life savers based on the 1:170 statistic. 486 staff and students got involved, the largest volunteering group of students and staff that Anthony Nolan has ever had for a single event. Loughborough won Anthony Nolan’s Recruiter of the Year 2017 award at the ANSAS, which celebrate their supporters. #SpitHappens has also won several marketing and communications awards against agencies and in-house teams outside the HE sector. Our first potential donor was called up on February 11th 2018.

Social stats included a big sign up for our Facebook event (523 people confirming in advance and 172 expressing an interest) whilst 147 people supported our Thunderclap with a social reach of 210,203. 17 Snapchat posts generated 49,700 views and 16 LinkedIn screenshots saw 39,404 impressions and engagement with 114 people. 797 liked our two posts on Instagram and we saw 1,144 tweets using #SpitHappens on the day with a 4.9 million hashtag reach and 382 unique users getting involved. A video of PVC Steve Rothberg’s personal story received 90 video shares and resulted in 11.7k views in one day. Our Spit Happens web page saw 2,105 page views from 6 countries with media coverage including the Loughborough Echo, Leicester Mercury and BBC Radio Leicestershire. Marketing and Advancement won a Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Professional Services (£2,500) which we have used to deliver this year’s Heart2Heart campaign, training over 1,400 staff, students and members of the public on Valentine’s Day 2018 to do life-saving CPR. As a team, we are now heading up CSR activity for the University.

Budget and cost effectiveness:

£2,853 of the £3,000 budget was spent, largely on T-shirts for volunteers (£1,543) which have been worn consistently over the past year. Loughborough students are keen on what they describe as ‘stash’ – branded kit they wear daily – and free t-shirts are a great way of engaging support. Other costs included £220 for banner stands, £1,000 for posters, fliers and digital signage and £90 refreshments.