Two years of Dryathlon: an agency perspective


Manifesto have been lucky enough to work on the first two years of Cancer Research UK’s Dryathlon campaign. Dryathlon, which challenges social drinkers to give up alcohol for January and raise money to fight cancer, was a huge success in its first year. It raised over £4 million for CRUK.

When we were invited back to work on the 2014 campaign the challenge was not just to replicate and build on the previous year’s success but to help take what was a standalone product and integrate it into the wider Cancer Research UK framework.

Dryathlon’s Incredible First Year

Dryathlon was conceived as a campaign to increase engagement with a demographic group that was under-represented among Cancer Research UK’s supporter base – young adult males – without alienating their other audiences.

Manifesto was selected to build a standalone site that would facilitate sign-ups, encourage sharing and maintain engagement throughout the campaign. We worked with CRUK to produce a microsite sitting on a subdomain of cancerresearchuk.org using Codeigniter and WordPress.


The main features were:

  • A banterous tone which would appeal to the target audience
  • An alcohol calculator which estimated the cost of a user’s alcohol intake in money and calories
  • Integration with the JustGiving API facilitating the automatic creation of a JustGiving fundraising page for individuals and teams
  • A leaderboard which pulled in the JustGiving data to promote competition between teams and individuals

The flexible platform on which the microsite was built and the fact that this was Dryathlon’s first year – so the emphasis was on pace and innovation – provided Manifesto and the product owners at Cancer Research UK a great deal of freedom.

The campaign smashed its targets, signing up seven times as many participants as projected and raising a whopping £4 million for fighting cancer.

The campaign also won a JustGiving Award for Best Use of Technology and an Institute of Fundraising Award for the Best Use of Insight.

Heading into 2014

Working on the second year of Dryathlon was a very different experience. I don’t mean it was any less enjoyable but the essential nature of the project had changed for us: whereas last year Manifesto was tasked with producing a user-experience which facilitated sign-ups and engagements the challenge this year became to support Cancer Research UK to integrate Dryathlon in to a unified signup process on their core Drupal platform.

This year Dryathlon would be a sub-brand on the Cancer Research UK ‘support us’ site rather than a Microsite in its own right. That meant working closely with the internal team to get all of the banter of Dryathlon in to a global template.

Testing to victory

Fortunately Cancer Research UK are nothing if not diligent when it comes to testing. Extensive tests of user experience fed back into the process at several junctures, helping to refine the user journeys and optimise them across devices.

Testing feedback manifested itself most clearly in the process of designing the new Willpower test – something we came up with to help promote engagement and sharing around the sign up process.

Our initial conception of the tool – which gauges a potential Dryathlete’s powers of resistance – was highly visual, making use of images and sliders to produce an immersive experience.

But user testing indicated that this approach made life difficult for mobile users; that a pared down approach using radio buttons and copy alone to frame the various will-testing scenarios was likely to work better.


The Release

This year’s Dryathlon challenge went live on January 1st so you can try out the alcohol calculator and Willpower test for yourself. It’s also not too late to sign yourself and your colleagues up for a booze-free January which raises money for vital research.

Early indications are that Dryathlon in 2014 is set to build on last year’s success – the number of teams which have signed up looks particularly strong – which is great news for the longevity of the campaign and for CRUK’s mission to beat cancer sooner.

Good luck to all this year’s Dryathletes!

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