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Undie Sunday bares all for bowel cancer awareness

Social & Digital

Undie Sunday bares all for bowel cancer awareness


Client: Rotary Bowelscan Queensland

PR Agency: Gray Media Services


Rotary Bowelscan is an annual program that is run by over 300 Rotary Clubs across Australia with the aim of increasing awareness and the number of people testing for what is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer, bowel cancer.

Established in 1982, the Rotary Bowelscan program runs during one month every year when it, with the support of hundreds of pharmacies throughout Australia, distributes Bowelscan testing kits to local communities, giving people the opportunity to test themselves early and regularly enough to have a fighting chance at survival.

The Rotary Bowelscan program’s testing kits are known throughout Australia as a trusted, cost-effective and simple way of testing for bowel cancer that include free laboratory results from accredited pathologists Australia-wide. As a community awareness initiative that is fully funded by Rotary, all proceeds are put back into the program, so the organisation can continue to provide the valuable community service year after year.

Rotary originally enlisted Gray Media Services (GMS) in 2009, looking to reach a younger target market with its annual campaign and to increase awareness and testing for bowel cancer further and wider than ever before. The result was Rotary Bowelscan’s 2010 ‘Never too Young’ campaign that saw four brave Rotarians raise awareness of bowel cancer and the program by dancing in their jocks in a YouTube video that went viral and sparked worldwide media coverage.

This year saw GMS push the Rotary Bowelscan program even further out of its already established marketplace through the development and implementation of the ‘Undie Sunday’ campaign, which generated 40 media results across national, local and niche publications and outlets.


GMS was engaged to develop and implement a public relations and marketing campaign for Rotary Bowelscan’s 2011 program that would increase awareness of bowel cancer and ultimately work to save more lives from the disease than ever before.

Building from the success of 2010’s ‘Never too Young’ campaign, GMS devised ‘Undie Sunday’, an event that aimed to raise vital awareness of bowel cancer by attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the ‘largest gathering of people wearing nothing but their underpants,’ which stood at 550 people.

The aim with this campaign was to further engage Australia’s younger generations to actively take part in the Rotary Bowelscan program, while also generating public discussion and spreading the important message of testing for bowel cancer far and wide.

In order to achieve these key objectives, GMS specifically targeted national and local media across print, TV, radio and online, promoting Undie Sunday as a unique community awareness initiative that, for the first time, brought the issue of bowel cancer to the forefront of people’s minds.


Rotary Bowelscan is an initiative run by not for profit organisation Rotary International and, therefore, there is only a small amount of funding that can be dedicated to the community awareness initiative each year, resulting in GMS having to plan, develop and execute Undie Sunday on a very minimal budget.

This was challenged further by a short window of time in which to plan and run the event, with GMS only given two months to implement Undie Sunday. Given the magnitude of the event, the small budget and the short time-frame, GMS had to therefore devise a strategy that would allow it to quickly but effectively achieve sponsorship, a master of ceremonies (MC), entertainment and, most essentially, 550 participants to get involved and take part in the record attempt.


An integrated public relations campaign was developed in order to promote Undie Sunday, drive participation to the event and, ultimately, increase awareness of bowel cancer further than ever before. Due to a very limited budget and only minimal funding allocated to marketing and advertising for Undie Sunday, GMS focused primarily on implementing a purely public relations strategy. This approach included releasing several targeted media campaigns that appealed to local businesses and celebrities to become involved in the event and coordinating a social media drive that, in effect, replaced the marketing aspect of a standard media campaign and worked to generate the awareness and participation needed for Undie Sunday in order to break the Guinness World Record.

In order to achieve the Rotary Bowelscan program’s key objective of reaching out to new and younger audiences, without the ability to implement the marketing strategy needed in order to effectively do this, GMS’s social media campaign became absolutely critical in reaching this demographic quickly, and ultimately in ensuring the success of Undie Sunday.


At the very beginning of the two-month campaign for Undie Sunday, a media strategy was implemented that targeted a wide range of local outlets by announcing Undie Sunday as a historic bowel cancer awareness event. The main focus of this campaign was to generate media coverage that would work to build awareness of the event, while also giving GMS a platform on which to build when contacting leading Brisbane venues and businesses to become involved in Undie Sunday.

The social media part of the campaign was then implemented, with a dedicated Undie Sunday Facebook page developed that promoted the event through continual updates each day and resulted in an incredible response from the public. As Undie Sunday drew closer, hundreds of people of all ages and backgrounds became fans of the page with the site succeeding in reinforcing Rotary Bowelscan’s initial aim of reaching out to people of all ages to share their own personal stories of how they had been affected by bowel cancer. The dramatic increase in the number of people attending Undie Sunday also aided in GMS’s push to find sponsorship and an MC for the event.

High profile local celebrities and media outlets that closely aligned with the values of Rotary Bowelscan and Undie Sunday were contacted. Gray Media Services was able to use the recognition Undie Sunday had already achieved from the general public and media to acquire Nova 106.9, ex Masterchef contestant Sharnee Rawson and The Courier Mail‘s entertainment columnist Nathanael Cooper’s support as MCs on the day.

Sponsorship was also crucial in the lead-up to Undie Sunday, because, with Rotary Bowelscan having no prior financial backing and only a minimal budget, it was essential that funding and entertainment for the event be donated by local businesses. Through a constant and targeted marketing push, innovative up and coming underwear brand Sly Underwear signed on as the lead sponsor for Undie Sunday, providing all of the underwear on the day, with dance company, Vida Latina, and sky diving organisation, Sky Warriors, among the other key Brisbane businesses that came and helped make Undie Sunday truly a day to remember.

Several targeted press releases and media alerts continued to drive Rotary Bowelscan’s important message and worked to further generate awareness and momentum for Undie Sunday with Rotary Bowelscan featuring in a wide range of local, national, health and lifestyle media.


Taking place at the Brisbane River stage on 13 March, Undie Sunday was a huge success, with over 350 people attending and many hundreds more showing their support for the Rotary Bowelscan program and bowel cancer awareness. In total, 40 pieces of media coverage were achieved for Rotary Bowelscan’s Undie Sunday campaign, including two TV feature stories and segments appearing over a two-week period. This included a feature story on The Weekend Today Show, the lead soft story of the day on ABC News Queensland, a page-lead top story in The Courier Mail and major coverage on Radio 612 ABC Brisbane.

By constantly pushing a consistent message through social media and media outlets that had a strong younger generational focus, Undie Sunday succeeded in the Rotary Bowelscan program reaching a wider target market, with the organisation also able to increase the sales of its Bowelscan kits through selling them to participants on the day.

GMS’s integrated and saturated public relations and marketing campaign succeeded in rapidly gaining the trust and support from a wide range of local businesses and sponsors who all enjoyed Undie Sunday. Due to GMS’s planning and exemplar execution of Undie Sunday, Rotary Bowelscan has achieved a 100 percent return rate from this year’s sponsors and supporters for next year’s Undie Sunday.

In conjunction with this positive result, GMS also drew upon the success of Undie Sunday to broker new sponsorship arrangements for Undie Sunday 2012, with leading Brisbane radio stations and media outlets already confirmed for next year’s event. GMS is now in the midst of planning for Undie Sunday 2012, with the aim of creating even further awareness and support for the Rotary Bowelscan program.


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