Making a Splash with Learn to Swim’s colourful public sector PR campaign

Scottish Water Public Sector PR

National drive to keep kids safe in the water gets a full public sector PR campaign


Around 40% of children leave primary school unable to swim a length.
On March 1, 2017 Scottish Water and Scottish Swimming formed a new three year partnership to roll out the Learn to Swim National Framework for Swimming across Scotland.
It aimed to help 100,000 kids to become confident swimmers.
It was the first major sponsorship by Scottish Water and, as a public body, that meant the decision had to be seen to be correct and justified.
Holyrood PR was appointed by Scottish Water in November to turbo-charge awareness, reach and amplification of the Learn to Swim (LtS) partnership.
Our PR agency was also charged with raising the profile of the programme’s ambassador, Scottish swimmer Duncan Scott, who at the time was still relatively unknown beyond swimming circles.


While raising awareness of the LtS programme Scottish Water also wanted to help educate customers about the importance of both water safety and hydration during exercise.Scottish Water’s three clear corporate objectives were to:
Satisfy the senior management team that the sponsorship was a worthwhile project
Provide justification if questions were raised over the use of public money as sponsorship
Build confidence to strengthen the emerging relationship with Scottish Swimming

A media audit revealed that in the six months before our involvement the programme had received almost no coverage.
Over 12 months we agreed to deliver at least 25 items of coverage and to help achieve ambitious targets of 50,000 sign ups in year one.
We also agreed to deliver a compelling, creative amplification event offering long-term value, while aiming to make the programme a memorable campaign received positively by Scottish Water staff.

What we did

Although a double Olympic silver medallist, LtS ambassador Duncan Scott was still relatively unknown. His training and competition schedule meant availability was strictly limited – with just one hour for our hour PR team.
We used that to shoot and edit a series of 47 video vignettes exploring swimming, called “Daily Dunks”, which we shared widely across social media.
To reach families outside of a pool setting we conceived and created “Challenge Duncan”, an, interactive game which challenges participants to “air swim” to match the speed of Duncan’s 100m freestyle British record of 47.9 seconds. It is still in use as of 2021.
On social media we also launched the #I-learned-to-swim social campaign, fronted by kids, parents, teachers explaining the importance of LtS. Successful media stories included a report on sign-up numbers after six months;  the launch of Scottish Water’s summer water safety campaign; a return to Duncan’s childhood swimming pool after he won six medals at the Commonwealth Games.

Results we delivered

Media articles

Opportunities to see

Children signed up

Ahead of target

Scottish Water’s best performing campaign of

Customer survey unprompted awarenes