How YouTube helped cancer research UK reach a new audience

November 2016

Cancer Research UK worked with more than 100 of the UK’s biggest YouTubers to help drive engagement with a young audience for the charity’s Stand Up To Cancer with YouTube event.

If you are a young person happy to help out a charity how do you find a cause which inspires you and with which you can connect? With so many important causes to choose from, charities must think strategically in order to stand out. Showing the impact of their work is one key element, as is knowing their audience.

Cancer Research UK realised that to grow its supporter base and encourage future donations it needed to establish an authentic relationship with young people. The charity’s Stand Up To Cancer campaign, in partnership with Channel 4, takes place every October raising millions of pounds to fund ground-breaking cancer research. It also provides the perfect platform for the charity to connect with under 25s – potential supporters and fundraisers of the future.

YouTube offered the charity the perfect platform to fire up young people about its work. The campaign saw more than 100 creators from across the community Stand Up To Cancer, including Zoella, Dan and Phil, Spencer FC, Naomi Smart and many more. They took part in 1,000 hours of fundraising culminating in a four hour live-streamed event hosted at YouTube’s London HQ.

“YouTube creates an opportunity for us to start a discussion and a relationship with our audience of the future.”

Michael Docherty, Director of Digital and Supporter Experience at Cancer Research UK

The creators took on their own fundraising stunts, shared personal stories, issued challenges to subscribers and generally interacted with their huge followings to deliver the message that everyone can Stand Up To Cancer. Cancer Research UK built on the previous year’s success and experience of working with YouTubers to fully benefit from the creators’ direct relationship with their fans.

Key learnings included: • Expanding the time-frame for awareness-building and fundraising to six weeks. • Handing more control to YouTubers to craft their own calls to action, rather than providing a set of generic fundraising assets to the creators. • Encouraging YouTubers to create content on their own channels. • Understanding YouTubers’ motivations and their excitement in having access to professional production and technical resources (e.g. the YouTube studio).

Fundraising challenges the Creators took on included Joe and Caspar’s sponsored silence, Oli White’s shark dive and Doug Armstrong’s Underwear Walk. The charity also opted to focus its marketing to promote Stand Up To Cancer with YouTube solely via digital channels this year to optimise reach.

The Stand Up To Cancer with YouTube strategy project delivered a double-win for Cancer Research UK. It strengthened its own valuable relationship with YouTubers and through these influencers it managed to reach a traditionally hard-to-target audience.

During the four hour live event, the hashtag #StandUpwithYT took the top trending position on Twitter in the UK, Europe and beyond. Over the total 1,000 hours of YouTube activity, the hashtag #StandUpwithYT was used 126,000 times. These metrics show YouTube’s ability to promote to and engage with an audience that by-passes many of the touchpoints used by not-for-profit organisations.

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