How The Royal Marines and Great State improved the nutrition of potential recruits

Great State won ‘Best Public Sector Social Media Strategy’ at The Drum Social Buzz Awards 2019 with its ‘Marine in 15’ campaign for The Royal Marines. Here, the agency reveals the challenges faced and the strategies used to deliver this successful project.

The challenge

It’s expensive for the Royal Marines to get an applicant through the long and arduous joining process. By the time recruits undergo their health and fitness tests in the latter stages, the smallest margins can be the difference between success and failure – with every drop out representing a lost investment.

The primary applicant demographic is 16 to 24-year-old men, who generally come from poorer socio-economic backgrounds. Statistics shows this demographic spends more than any other on fast-food and ready meals, largely due to a lack of cooking knowledge.

In recent years this has been compounded by many schools dropping any form of cooking from the curriculum and the perceived expense of ‘healthy’ food. There has also been a huge rise in sugary energy drinks, calorific energy bars, supplement shakes and meal-in-a-can products, which are being portrayed as ideal for the health conscious.

We were briefed to raise awareness of the importance of good nutrition among a core audience that struggles with healthy eating.

Our primary goal was to reach as many applicants as possible with content that would inform, entertain and motivate them as they navigate the Royal Navy recruitment process and gear up for their health and fitness tests. Our secondary goal was to make the budget stretch and maximise our investment by keeping costs to a minimum.

The strategy

We needed to make healthy eating more accessible to our applicants, inform the misinformed and instill the importance of a balanced nutritious diet. If we could help improve the prospects of a handful of recruits, or even just one person, we would save the service thousands of pounds every year and the campaign would pay for itself. And with dozens of applicants missing out by a single pull-up in the gym or a few seconds on the road, the opportunities were huge.

As part of this, our main objectives were to:

  • Extend cooking, nutrition and recipe knowledge among recruits, motivating and inspiring them to try something new.
  • Enable recruits to eat healthier and get fit with balanced meals that support muscle growth and maintain their energy levels for a demanding exercise schedule.
  • Deliver short-form content that is on-message via channels that appeal to, entertain and engage with our audience, without being patronising.
  • Prove that healthy nutritious food is accessible, affordable, easy to make and tasty.
  • Reflect Royal Marines culture, promote the unique sense of humour and ethos.

The Royal Marines recruitment intake runs throughout the year, so we designed our content to be evergreen, allowing it to be reshared, embedded across other channels and develop as part of an ongoing series.

Our research showed that around two-thirds of those applying were already following one or more of the Royal Marines social channels. Because we were on a small budget, we focussed our effort on creating content for the existing organic audience, on channels we knew they engaged with, rather than buying media to reach a new one.

The Royal Marines’ social channels were full of informative and dramatic content, which was predominantly serious in tone. We knew there was another side to the Service that wasn’t represented, which would connect with recruits – its unique sense of humour (‘cheerfulness in the face of adversity’ is an official part of the Royal Marines ethos). By creating a lighter, more informal feel, we would stand-out among other Marines content and better reflect the culture.

The popularity of the quick-and-easy recipe format on social media has helped inspire huge numbers to try new things in the kitchen, but statistics show women were far more likely to be both the content creators and the audience. These videos obviously worked; they just weren’t resonating with our audience. That’s why we decided to turn this mini-genre on its head.

The campaign

Marine in 15 parodied the classic Joe Wicks Lean in 15 and starred larger-than-life Royal Marines Chef, Colour Sergeant Mike Beaton. We already knew our audience responded well to real personnel, while Mike’s no-nonsense style also provided the perfect antidote to the more delicate and twee recipe videos they were used to thumbing past on social media.

Each video was shot on base, giving recruits a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life as a Royal Marine. These videos weren’t high gloss, state-of-the-art productions. They were rough and ready, cost-effective and unapologetically authentic. The format was quick, no-nonsense cooking that debunked myths surrounding diet and nutrition in a way only a Royal Marine could. Things were thrown. There was shouting. And there was very little finesse.

We made sure all our recipes cost under a fiver and could be made in one pan to make them as accessible to our audience as possible.

The results

Our £15k budget allowed us to create eleven entertaining yet informative videos. Engaging content that wasn’t just a flash in the pan, but instead had longevity, gave recruits access to tasty, quick recipes that they can return to again and again. These videos empowered recruits to manage their own nutrition through affordable balanced meals, with limited effort and minimal equipment.

As our primary platform, we reached a whopping one million people (1,053,919) on Facebook. Engagement was also high – we achieved 92,838 engagements (reactions, comments, shares and clicks) on this channel alone. This engagement was overwhelmingly positive in sentiment (99.1%) and we didn’t receive any dislikes for our posts.

The videos got more than 700k views across the four owned social channels (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter). These were organic views from our recruits, not boosted by media spend or inflated with views from irrelevant audience groups. At a cost of £0.021 per view (or 47 views to the pound), this proved excellent value for money. In addition, the videos elicited 1,100 comments and over 7,000 likes across all platforms. We even caught the attention of Joe Wicks himself.

Mike is now a very busy man. He’s booked-up for the year travelling the country with his recipes, visiting schools and teaching the next generation about health and nutrition.

This campaign was a winner at The Drum Social Buzz Awards 2019. Click here to register your interest in next year’s event.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.