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Pivoting digital marketing strategy and beating targets

by manifesto

3-minute read

Diabetes Uk Case Study

Designing a new digital strategy that reflected a nation in lockdown.


Unlike other industries, events were hit particularly hard by COVID-19 – many falling victim to outright cancellation, rather than managing to adapt in time.

But with events making up a significant portion of charities’ annual revenues, the numerous lockdowns and tiered restrictions have posed a huge risk to non-profits’ incomes.

One charity which rose to this challenge in 2020 was Diabetes UK. The organisation raises money to fight Diabetes, a condition which is expected to impact an estimated 5.3 million people by 2025.

Its flagship event, the One Million Steps challenge, sees individuals join a huge online community of steppers to raise money, walking at least 10,000 steps a day over three months.


The UK’s first lockdown hit just two weeks into the event’s three-month media plan. The timing couldn’t have been worse. Drastically limited outdoor activity, as well as the fear for those living with Diabetes falling more severely ill with the virus, meant meeting sign-up targets with the charity’s current marketing strategy seemed impossible.

A new strategy was in order, one which offered reassurance and pandemic-friendly tips to complete each set of daily step challenges. Such a pivot would see Diabetes UK advertise the event again, but this time with a new digital strategy, creative, and event accessibility that reflected a nation in lockdown.

A whole new digital strategy

Diabetes UK reacted quickly, pivoting its campaign to include Covid-19-proof messaging. As one of the very few events to manage this in the beginning, the One Million Steps challenge enjoyed a head start – meaning a flurry of early sign-ups.

As the digital events space became more crowded, manifesto's channel-agnostic and performance-driven media spend strategy helped to substitute the momentum. Using Facebook, Spotify, Bing, and Google Paid Search, manifesto set in place a system of rules and automations. The team used Cost Per Action (CPA) to dictate rate of spend. This meant the campaign could restart without succumbing to the risks of big media spends and poor results.

Our ability to adapt the charity’s strategy at such short notice had a huge part to play in the campaign’s success. The team even trialled a new implementation of Facebook lookalikes. This change led to a spike in sign-ups at the most crucial part of the campaign – the final three weeks.


Put simply, this event was a huge success. It marked one of the UK’s largest virtual walks in 2020, raising £1,956,581 for Diabetes research. The campaign registered 22,038 people in total — a 108% turnout on its pre pandemic target.

So instead of simply surviving, the charity’s campaign outperformed and set new records. It overcame its target for sign ups through advert clicks by a whopping 136%. And it smashed through pre March revenue targets by an even larger 196%. An outstanding achievement and testament to the long hours, agility, and hard work put in by all involved.

We’re really impressed with the continuous improvements manifesto have implemented to our paid search, display and social campaigns over the past couple of years

Daniel Larcey

Senior Events and Mass Participation Manager, Diabetes UK