Helping the UK recharge with Canal & River Trust

The challenge

Faced with the threat of reduction in government funding, the Canal & River Trust, the charity that looks after 2,000 miles of waterways, needed to transform itself from a public service body into a brand-led organisation that was better known and loved, and that was perceived as making a positive contribution to a wide cross section of the population’s leisure time and well-being.

 This required a complete repositioning of the brand and a strategy that built brand awareness, while also driving participation among individuals living close to canals and waterways. 

The solution

Working closely with the CR&T team, we focused in on academic and proprietary research that showed that the more time people spend along the Trust’s canals and rivers, the happier and healthier they can feel. This unearthed an opportunity to position the brand in the wellbeing space - as a source of free and accessible wellbeing available to all.

But to really maximise the opportunity, we recommended adopting a positioning that could also allow the brand to push into the adjacent ‘wellness’ space over time, potentially providing greater levels of differentiation and commercial opportunities - ‘Life’s Better by Water’.

We then needed a creative and media strategy that grabbed the attention of those living within 1km of the Canal & River Trust’s waterways – about 8 million people in total, (many of whom were not fully aware of the accessibility of the local waterways, or of the additional wellbeing benefits of using them to do some of the things they may do elsewhere, like exercising, commuting or walking the dog.

To create emotional, memorable connections with the C&RT, our creative approach turned to the power of storytelling through a new and loveable character, Well-B. We follow Well-B on a journey from the familiar grey bustle of modern city life to the bright, uplifting canalside. As the journey goes on, Well-B’s ‘wellness monitor’ shows how much better he feels by the water, literally putting the Canal & River Trust at the heart of both the character and the campaign.

The work supported research showcasing that fluent devices like Well-B are an efficient and effective way in a multi-platform world of eliciting the sorts of strong emotional response that has a longer-term effect. Campaigns with fluent devices create memory structures for brand recognition, making investment go further. 

We also used data signals to map ‘moments of unwellness’ and targeted these moments through our channel choices to drive awareness levels up to an audience unaware that health and wellness was within their reach, both physically and financially.

The results

Overall brand awareness amongst those within 1km of a waterway has increased from 47% to 63% over the past 18 months following our campaign bursts.

We have driven step-changes in participation, with younger audiences (16-34 year olds) almost 20% more likely to visit their local waterway than 12 months ago, and ‘health and wellbeing’ has been established as the primary reason for visiting among 77% of visitors.  

increase in brand awareness following our campaign bursts
16-34 year olds more likely to visit their local waterway
visitors choose 'health and wellbeing' as reason for visit


Canal & River Trust - Recharge

A strategic focused example of how we are transforming a traditional leisure organisation into a wellbeing and wellness brand, driving participation around this new positioning.

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MSQ Partners

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