RHS Flower Shows Help Cancer Research UK Bloom Through Pandemic

The largest funder of cancer research in Europe, Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has seen its long-term garden sponsorship of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) continue to pay off with an increase in engagement over the last 12 months.

CRUK first started working with the RHS over 10 years ago however, over the last 12 months the cancer research charity increased its focus on developing its legacy messaging. Last year CRUK saw success through sponsoring show gardens at the prestigious RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival and RHS Flower Show Tatton Park.

The big challenge CRUK faced in 2021 was having almost all its in-person events and engagement activities put on hold due to the pandemic. Forced to use remote and digital marketing strategies to engage with its supporters, the charity looked to the RHS shows to help complement its other marketing channels and optimise the outcome during what was an extremely challenging year for many charities.

Sam Devlin, Head of Legacy Product at CRUK, said: “Although digital marketing activities play an important role in our marketing and engagement plans, it does not substitute meaningful face to face conversations, especially when you can treat your supporters to an amazing experience at the same time.

“The RHS is an established organisation with a renowned programme of events that attracts visitors who are closely aligned to our audience. The shows allowed us to reach this audience in an enjoyable, leisurely environment.”

CRUK’s Legacy Garden, designed by the innovative young designer Tom Simpson for RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, won a hat-trick of awards, including the RHS Gold Medal, Best in Show, and Best Construction. It represented the duality between CRUK’s legacy supporters and researchers who together will help to beat cancer. Whilst the charity’s Legacy Garden at RHS Tatton Park Flower Show, designed by Neil Sutcliffe, was a peaceful and immersive space inspired by a Greek proverb, ‘A Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they shall never sit in.’

The charity has seen legacy giving awareness and consideration increase significantly, with more people leaving a gift in their will and show visitors engaging with their garden, leading to meaningful conversations. 

Devlin continued: “RHS shows have allowed us to build on this consideration by telling the story of our life-saving research through the show garden design. Working closely with the best garden designers helps get our message across in a clever, engaging and sensitive way.

“We are now looking at how we build on our relationship with the RHS even further, aiming to work more collaboratively with other like-minded charities to amplify our messaging. We want to appear at more shows across the UK creating unique and engaging experiences in an innovative way.”

Helena Pettit, RHS Director of Shows and Gardens, said: “Our RHS shows provide a unique platform for charities and other organisations to promote their brands to large audiences. Sponsoring a garden is an excellent way of engaging people with your messaging because it allows you to tell your story in a beautiful way through plants. As a charity, our RHS shows and the publicity around them are vital in helping us promote our own charitable work and for fundraising purposes. 

“Over the last two years, there has been a gardening boom with people of all ages now interested in horticulture. This has opened up huge opportunities for our sponsors to capitalise on this increased interest in gardening and target a range of demographics that they may not be able to do through other channels. We’re delighted at the success CRUK has had through working with us, and are proud to have supported them through a challenging time to create meaningful experiences for their supporters.”

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