Marta Kochanek Photographer, Art Director, DOP


Brief: To raise awareness of, and drive participation in, the Aspire Channel Swim event (Aspire charity's biggest single fundraising event).

Big Cat have been working with Aspire Charity for three years on their biggest fundraising event, The Aspire Channel Swim which launched 18 years ago. Each year, the aim of the national event is to swim 22 miles (width of the English Channel) over 12 weeks between September to December in order to raise money for people living with paralysis. Participants take part in their local swimming pool when it is most convenient for them.

Across the three year partnership Big Cat have evolved the brand creative. What started with us being tasked to finesse the existing creative in year 1, has seen us progress to in 2018/19 developing an entirely new brand identity. The aim has been simple: to boost participants and broaden the appeal of the fundraiser to audiences, while ensuring brand consistency across all communications

Objectives: To recruit over 7,000 participants for the 2018/2019 swim, a 17% increase upon the previous year and to reach a fundraising target of over £700,000 through participants and supporters of the swim.

Budget: £86,171
(£62,671 which includes creative development, website UX enhancements, marcomms deliverables and brand partnerships plus £23,500 third party costs on outdoor, photography and videography and influencer marketing).

Target Audience: Since the start of our partnership with Aspire we have banked a wealth of event insights and key learnings. This paired with 18 years of data to tap into, we have been able to define a clear audience profile. This was primarily women in their mid-30s, although with the fundraiser being an all-encompassing fundraising initiative, it did attract both males and females of all age groups. Our audience research, which we hosted with local community groups, identified that the commonality between these audience groups was that they were all interested in keeping fit and healthy, and give to charity when they could, but they were also super busy juggling family and work life, so often needed motivation to fit these things in.
We also identified that a motivational barrier for people partaking in charitable fundraisers was the lack of communication from the charities to explain the impact of the fundraising and how the donations are used.

Execution: The brand strategy was simple; discover the real motivations behind participation from real people, to deliver a brand identity and creative campaign that would truly resonate.
We positioned the Aspire Channel Swim as a solid but achievable challenge for a worthy cause. Combining audience, market place and brand led insights with our distilled business objectives, we were able to craft a compelling proposition which consumers could resonate with. This became the springboard for our brand overhaul.

The community consultation and brand insights informed our creative process which started with the identification of reoccurring themes and key attributes laying the foundations for our key messaging. Getting the charity's beliefs and values across was crucial. So, it was important to create a brand identity that would instantly inform audiences about the nature of the charity fundraiser and create positive vibes via the use of empowering shapes and vibrant colours. After a successful campaign in 2016 and 2017 targeting females, we found that the challenge was increasingly seeing more interest from males. We built up a collection of case studies and testimonials from people who had taken part who were of all ages and after putting these out to the media, we realised that to encourage our target of 7,000 participants to take part in 2018's fundraiser, we framed the swim as all-inclusive and a challenge that everyone can take part in. The design creative achieved this through using ordinary people with a heroic dimension to create a fun and warming visual. To further instil a sense of community, we used heroic copy lines like, 'Queen of the Tide' and 'The Human Shark' which were fun, upbeat and empowering. Furthermore, we implemented the sub copy line 'Discover Your Inner Champion' across the campaign creative to build encouragement among participants.

The brand creative included a complete brand overhaul including logo, colour palette, photography and creative campaign look and feel. Our integrated marketing strategy required assets for social media, direct mail, email, outdoor and digital advertising and print media, whilst our key messaging informed all PR outreach.

By pairing an attention-grabbing brand identity and visuals with a robust audience-building marketing communications strategy, the Aspire Channel Swim has resulted in over 12,000 participants across 2016 and 2017 and they have continued to smash sign-up goals each year, gaining £1,206,000 in fundraising. Our third year of working with them will not be complete until April 2019 as the challenge has been extended from ending in Dec to now finishing in April, so the final fundraising and participants have not yet been confirmed.


  • AspireClient
Project featured: on 26th February 2019

Aspire Channel Swim