Prostate Cancer UK campaign saw bookies as best bet – Donald Morrison

Prostate cancer was a taboo subject for many years but men are increasingly opening up about the ­disease. ­Comedian and actor Stephen Fry and journalist Bill Turnbull are among the many high profile figures to talk about their own battle with the ­disease. In doing so, they’ve helped raise awareness about a disease that still claims around 1,000 lives in ­Scotland every year.

Miles Briggs MSP, Miriam Lang and Jamie Cook from William Hill, and Gerard McMahon of Prostate Cancer UK, celebrate the success of the awareness campaign, which also raised £25,000
Miles Briggs MSP, Miriam Lang and Jamie Cook from William Hill, and Gerard McMahon of Prostate Cancer UK, celebrate the success of the awareness campaign, which also raised £25,000

Prostate cancer is the most ­common cancer in men and the ­disease kills one man every 45 ­minutes in the UK. Men over 50, black men and men with a family history of prostate ­cancer all face a higher than average risk of the disease.

Given their age profile, it’s a disease which potentially affects many of our customers, typically men in their 50s and over who are hard to reach through conventional health screening and messaging.

So, when Prostate Cancer UK approached ABB and William Hill last year to suggest a joint campaign targeting men in betting shops, it seemed like an obvious partnership. Looking back, few of us could have anticipated its success.

Donald Morrison, Scottish Media & Public Affairs, ABB Scotland

The partnership began in spring 2018 with a week-long pilot in 12 shops across Scotland. It quickly expanded, taking in shops near major football stadiums and running over two weeks instead.

It was clear from the outset that this was a campaign that was ­likely to inspire and engage shop staff, many of whom had their own family ­history of prostate ­cancer.

By May, the campaign was ready to roll out nationwide across all of ­William Hill’s 310 shops in ­Scotland.

Posters, leaflets, badges and ­collection tins were distributed to ­every shop, staff were briefed on key ­prostate cancer messages to bring up in ­conversation with customers, and volunteers from Prostate Cancer UK, who have lived or are currently living with the disease, visited shops to talk to staff and customers about their own experiences.

The campaign was timed to ­coincide with a busy summer of sport, including the Champions League Final, the World Cup, Royal Ascot and ‘Glorious Goodwood,’ events guaranteed to draw large numbers of men into betting shops. That was key.

Prostate Cancer UK relies on ­getting its message into ­venues where men gather. Kathleen Feeney, volunteer manager for the charity said: ­“Prostate Cancer UK’s ambition is to stop men dying from prostate ­cancer and to achieve this it is ­crucial to reach as many as possible, to help raise awareness of their risk and raise funds for vital research.

“Partnering with William Hill has ­provided us with an opportunity to get these important health ­messages out to many men in Scotland whilst ­raising funds.”

But the campaign wasn’t confined to betting shops. Shop staff took to the streets and the hills to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK, with some ­competing in Kiltwalks and others climbing Ben A’an.

By the end of the four-month ­campaign, 5,000 Prostate Cancer UK ‘man of men’ pin badges had been sold in shops, raising £10,000, a ­further £15,000 had been raised by William Hill staff through ­charity fundraising and more than 5,000 information cards had been distributed to customers.

The campaign secured support from dozens of MPs and MSPs, many of whom visited shops in their local constituency, and gained nationwide media coverage, ensuring its message reached the widest possible audience.

For Miles Briggs MSP, the co-convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Cancer, the campaign was an example of how to engage a traditionally hard to reach demographic. He said: “This is exactly the sort of innovative approach we need to see in the future to deliver public health information and tackle the many health inequalities which exist in Scotland.

“This partnership has done a great deal to raise awareness of prostate cancer among men, including those who may be reluctant to go to their GP to discuss health concerns, and this is really important as early detection is vital to ensure the highest possible chances of successful treatment.”

Last month it was revealed that scientists at Glasgow University are working on new research into immunotherapy treatment, which is designed to help patients with advanced prostate cancer. The treatment, which uses the body’s own natural defences to attack the disease, has been described as “game changing” and was made ­possible through a £250,000 grant from Prostate Cancer UK.

Staff and customers at ­William Hill’s shops can rightly feel proud that money they raised here in ­Scotland is helping to fund such pioneering research and ­ultimately advancing the treatment of advanced ­prostate cancer.

Anyone who has concerns can contact ­Prostate Cancer UK’s specialist ­nurses in ­confidence on 0800 074 8383 or online via the Live Chat instant ­messaging service at www.prostatecanceruk.org

Donald Morrison, Scottish media and public affairs, ABB Scotland.