Beat The Scrum is a ground breaking partnership between the Mid-Mersey A&E Delivery Board, the Super League rugby league team, Widnes Vikings, and legends of Rugby League. The campaign aims to leverage the significant press and online reach of a major sports organisation to educate people on how to make the right NHS choices.
It sees rugby stars feature in funny, creative and informative videos. Since launch in July 2017, c.75 highquality videos have been issued on social media, achieving more than 400,000 views and a collective view time of 60+ days. This viral success equates to at least 14x the engagement rate of Halton CCG’s traditional marketing and 12903 weeks of traffic to their local NHS’s advice pages. www.beatthescrum.com has been created as a hub for these campaigns and features on the front of the Widnes Vikings 2018 shirts, as the club’s main sponsor.
Innovative PR initiatives have also been delivered from dedicating a Sky televised derby to the NHS, through to offering ECG’s to amateur athletes, and hosting press conferences with hospitals. This has delivered weekly constructive press coverage for the NHS in local, regional and national media offering a value far exceeding the campaign investment.
More than £10m was wasted in the Mid-Mersey region by 120,000 people unnecessarily visiting A&E last years, instead of services such as pharmacies, Walk-In or Urgent Care Centres. This campaign leverages the public and media interest in the sport, generating viral content and coverage that educates people and inspires a constructive dialogue.
Public Health England identified that 40% of the Halton population does not engage with traditional health services, due to the town having a challenging socio-economic makeup. The demographics of that ‘hidden 40%’ closely match the supporter-base of the club, meaning that it is the perfect platform for reaching this disengaged public. These challenges are matched across other local rugby communities.
All campaigns aim to encourage preventative lifestyle changes and a more informed public. For example, the Winter Health Campaign raised awareness of A&E pressures, flu jabs, childhood immunisation, & pharmacy services. With 217,000 live spectators each season and 5.3m people watching the team on television, the campaign reaches a large and engaged audience.
This is supported by the Vikings having far bigger digital reach than local NHS partners (e.g. 35,000 Twitter followers and 40,000 Facebook likes (Vikings), vs 6000 Twitter followers & 57 Facebook likes (Halton CCG)).
This project was tested with a pilot that Widnes Vikings delivered with NHS Halton in June 2017. With more than 100,000 online video views across 20 videos, extensive regional and national media coverage, and a correlating 7.8% reduction in local A&E usage, it was an unprecedented success.
The programme was scaled with the Delivery Board. Widnes Vikings would deliver four major professionally filmed video campaigns, using current players and legends of Widnes, St Helens and Warrington Wolves to educate the public. These videos would be creative, humorous or thought provoking. With social media advertising and contests to amplify the content, each campaign would secure at least 100,000 views and 12 days of viewing– equating to 14x the engagement of traditional NHS marketing in Halton.
This aim was smashed, with a Winter Health campaign generating c300,000 views, 52 days viewing and 1000 people signing up as campaign ambassadors. At this time, usage of Halton’s Urgent Care services rose by 25% compared to the previous year, indicating an avoidance of A&E usage. At a time of perceived NHS crisis, it has created constructive coverage -from Sky Sports, BBC Sports & Talksport features, to local radio and newspaper coverage.
This campaign has already scaled, with a one-month pilot campaign in Halton has being expanded to become a year-long initiative across Mid-Mersey. Leaders of Widnes Vikings and the Mid-Mersey A&E Delivery Board have shared this success at national conferences, in national and international healthcare media (HSJ, Pulse, Fab NHS, ScopeNI) and with sports press (including a major national BBC Sport feature).
The Cheshire and Merseyside STP intend to replicate with other clubs, in other communities. Widnes Vikings are also exploring interest from other major sports organisations and governing bodies. Supporting dissemination has been the NHS commentator, Roy Lilley, who is introducing it to the highest levels of the NHS.
He said: “Beat The Scrum is the most effective public health campaign in years; tough issues taken on by tough people, hard messages for a hard problem, and at the heart of it all people who care. Widnes Vikings can reach the people the NHS finds it hardest to reach – blue collar workers and people who are too busy. Widnes Vikings helped to reduce A&E attendances by 7.2%, a HUGE amount. If we could multiply this across the NHS, we wouldn’t have half the problems that we have now.”
This offers an unprecedented engagement platform – 217,000 matchday attendees, 5m+ TV viewers, 86,000 social media followers, ongoing constructive press coverage etc. The provides a cost-effective advertising channel, creates a more informed public, who are motivated to choose services like walk-in centres instead of strained resources like A&E. The pilot campaign generated over 100,000 video views, with 12 days of collective viewing.
This was equal to 14x the rates of engagement to Halton CCG’s traditional marketing. The winter health campaign generated more almost 300,000 views, with a collective view time of c.52 days – smashing its target of replicating the pilot. The collective views are equal to 12,903 weeks of traffic to Halton CCG’s NHS options web page.
Several hundred pieces of positive press coverage have been generated– including major Sky Sports, Sunday Politics, Daily Mirror, Talk Sport, BBC Radio Five features, and all local newspapers and radio. Mel Pickup, CEO of Warrington and Halton Hospitals: “By making the campaign totally relevant to fans, the fun and impactful short films have been widely viewed and shared across multiple channels.
We could not have hoped to have reached and informed so many potential users with our traditional and very stretched NHS resources.”
Widnes Vikings have delivered his in partnership with the Mid-Mersey A&E Delivery Board (CCGs, councils, hospitals and ambulance service). The Board work directly with the Club’s CEO and Director of Comms to steer it. A primary audience for the campaign is the public, both rugby league fans and non-fans too (reached through mainstream press coverage & stadium advertising).
With the latest campaign having more than 10,000 likes, shares and comments on social media, 1000 people signing up online to become Beat The Scrum ambassadors and 400,000 total views to date, it is clear that it has captured the public imagination. The campaign is designed for viral effect and to appeal directly to supporters – e.g. you’ll wait three games of rugby league if you choose A&E but be seen by half-time if you choose Urgent Care. A major stakeholder is the media.
The club has engaged the media by showcasing the viral nature of the campaign and making it relevant to them – leveraging the campaign with requests for player interviews & even hosting press conferences at hospitals. Many of Rugby League’s biggest legends are campaign ambassadors, featuring in videos and PR events – earning the atte