Back to Earth & Help for Heroes

Helping fundraising reach dizzy heights…

My brief:

England world cup winner and British Lion Neil Back was planning a solo parachute jump to raise money for Help for Heroes. Having previously worked with Leeds Rugby, Rugby Premiership sponsors Aviva and Engage Mutual on their Superleague sponsorship, I was asked to advise and to come up with a strategy to maximize fundraising potential for the campaign.

Whilst there was a limited budget, I was asked to consider how we could engage the rugby community using Neil Back’s past achievements, rugby contacts and profile to create unpaid for noise.

As Neil Back was coach of Leeds Carnegie at the time, there was also a local Yorkshire and Leeds connection to exploit.

“a massive thanks to Tim for all his help with making Back to Earth a reality “

Neil Back

England Rugby World Cup Winner & British Lion

The Approach:

We decided the best approach was a 2 pronged attack – step one to gain involvement with the sky dive, and step 2 to raise extra funds by keeping awareness high post jump with a major event.

A brand for the whole campaign was developed under the guise of – Back to Earth (apologies about the pun!). I also created an impactful, recognizable visual identity which could run across both elements of the campaign.

Sponsored Event

We approached the Red Devils - the Parachute Regiments Freefall display team and managed to book 30 places for a 13,000ft skydive. We also suggested Neil rope in some of his ex England colleagues to give us more awareness (Josh Lewsey, Henry Paul and Harry Ellis all kindly obliged after a bit of arm twisting!).

Next we set about selling the other 26 places with a minimum commitment of raising £1500 each. To do this I created a website where people could donate , find out more about Back to Earth or register interest.

Then using PR, social media, viral marketing, free advertising and word of mouth, I was able to create a lot of noise in national press, local media and rugby circles due to the Link with Help for Heroes, Neil Back and his famous rugby pals involvement.

Awareness Event

As a long shot, we speculatively approached the Great Yorkshire Show (which took place 2 weeks after the jump) about the possibility of a free pitch for us to promote the campaign. We also asked whether they would be interested in The Red Devils parachuting into the Showground as part of the entertainment to present Neil Back and wounded soldier Tom Neathway a cheque for money raised.

The Great Yorkshire Show Operations Team were really keen on the idea and felt it would make a great climax for the Show. We were given a marquee on the President’s lawn, a 30 place hospitality package to sell for fundraising and they helped us find a local sponsor to pay for The Red Devils.

I personally handled all the PR for both events as well as all promotional activity and logistics pre, during and post The Great Yorkshire Show.

Making it happen

The Sponsored Event - Charity Skydive

I assembled a team to help organize the events – most of which gave their time voluntarily. Twitter and Facebook proved to be great ways of getting word out and I managed all the social media activity. The places on the plane were all filled with recruits from all over the UK as well as a party of 10 Dubai based business men recruited directly from the Twitter activity!

I also managed and co-ordinated TV crews from Sky Sports News and the BBC on jump day.

As well as PR and Advertising we ran viral email marketing campaigns as part of the campaign. All this activity led to many direct donations to the Back to Earth website

The Great Yorkshire Show activity

We arranged sponsorship from Gilbert of Back to Earth mini rugby balls to sell at the show and a raffle to win a sky dive. I also designed and produced flyers, banners, display stands and advertisements to raise awareness of our attendance at the show.

Logistics on the day and liaison with the GYS organizers was a huge undertaking, but fortunately everything ran to plan – with the Yorkshire Post describing the Red Devils landing in the show ground, as “the highlight of this years show”

After the sky dive which was an amazing spectacle witnessed by many thousands, I was part of the televised welcoming committee, with Neil Back who presented a cheque for funds raised to paraplegic war hero Tom Neathway who received the cheque on behalf of Help for Heroes.


  • Generating over £55,000 for Help for Heroes was a massive achievement in itself
  • Pulling together an event of this magnitude with little or no promotional budget – showed how important clever viral and social networking could be.
“An unbelievable achievement – beyond all our expectations”

Annabel Bowman

Communications Manager – Help for Heroes