Decorated swimmer is inspiration for gold medal-worthy digital PR campaign

by Scott Douglas

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

Interactive challenge inspires pool efforts without getting wet – proving a social media and digital PR hit

Digital PR photography Go Live! at the Green challenge Duncan success post graphic

WHEN IT comes to working with Scotland’s most decorated ever Commonwealth Games athlete, not just any Digital PR campaign will suffice.

Nope, when you’re keeping that kind of company, it’s vital that you come up with a campaign that could proudly take its place on the medal podium.

Step forward the team at Holyrood PR, who did exactly that with a brilliantly successful digital PR campaign to help promote the Learn to Swim campaign during the 2018 European Championships in Glasgow.

To make the most of the relationship with Learn to Swim ambassador Duncan Scott – who won SIX medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games – we devised an interactive PR campaign to fire the imagination of the public.

It delivered gold medal-worthy results which included:

  • Conceiving and commissioning an interactive machine which let people test themselves against one of Duncan’s record-breaking swims – without getting in the water
  • Almost 2400 people took part in the swimming simulation – desperately competing to get on a daily leader board.
  • Racked up enormous social media reach – with the #ChallengeDuncan reaching more than 170,000 people
  • Huge engagement across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat
  • Outstanding real-world interaction, including more than 55 hours of time spent on the machine – an average of 5.5 hours per day
  • Cross-generational involvement from the smallest children to passing police officers
  • High profile participation from Capital FM presenter Des Clarke – who only learned to swim in 2017
  • The “Challenge Duncan” machine become the standout hit of the Go Live @ the Green event on Glasgow Green
  • Learn to Swim’s vital messages in front of the 116,000 people who attended the Green event over 10 days

The Learn to Swim campaign is a partnership between Scottish Water and Scottish Swimming which is getting tens of thousands of primary school children into the pool for life-affirming and potentially live saving swimming lessons.

Duncan Scott is a proud ambassador for the programme, championing the cause and helping inspire youngsters and their families to get involved. Despite his elite athlete status and punishing training schedule he regularly attends events with kids involved in the programme.

Digital PR photography Go Live! at the green, challenge Duncan social media coverge success post graphic

At the heart of our hugely successful digital PR campaign was a simple idea – create a way for ordinary Scots of any age to get a real idea of what goes into an elite athlete’s record-breaking swim – without having to get wet.

After Duncan Scott clocked up a British Record time for the 100m Freestyle, we dreamt up a way for any member of the public to recreate that feat by “air swimming” in front of a sensor which would let them match their progress against video footage of Duncan’s actual swim.

After sourcing the experts to create the “Challenge Duncan” machine, we then worked with Scottish Water and Scottish Swimming to test it out at a number of small-scale events. It was a huge hit with users of all ages, so the next step was to plan the formal launch.

The perfect opportunity presented itself in the shape of the 10-day Go Live @ the Green event in Glasgow – a public celebration of the city hosting the 2018 European Championships. It was 10 action packed days of have-a-go sport, fun and culture taking place throughout the championships, from August 2-12.

The Challenge Duncan machine became the centrepiece of the Learn to Swim stand at Glasgow Green and regularly had snaking queues of people wanting to try it out. We not only oversaw the installation, trained the staff and handled all troubleshooting (Wi-Fi problems, anyone?), we also collated the results every day and ensured a daily leader board was posted on Facebook.

Long after its runaway launch success, the Challenge Duncan concept has proved to be the digital PR gift which keeps on giving.

It has also created a hugely popular asset for Scottish Swimming – which now offers the popular and evergreen Challenge Duncan machine for launches and other events at swimming pools and leisure trusts all over Scotland.

Smart businesses know this kind of digital PR campaign is a brilliant way to get results. Find out how you could benefit

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    Scott Douglas, of public relations agency Holyrood PR in Scotland

    Scott Douglas

    Scott Douglas is the co-founder of the multi award-winning Holyrood PR, renowned public relations agency in Edinburgh, Scotland.
    As well as providing expert PR services in Scotland and the UK, the former journalist heads a team which offers a host of other professional media services.
    Those include crisis management PR, photography for business PR, affordable business video, social media campaigns and strategic content planning and delivery for businesses of all sizes.

    View Scott's Profile

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