Creative Awards Case Studies PR Case Studies

How Emma's take on counting sheep made audiences sleepy


By The Drum, Editorial

December 7, 2023 | 7 min read

Emma and Fanclub have won the Innovation category at The Drum Awards for PR. Here is the award-winning case study.

Check out the award-winning campaign

Our task was to platform how Emma helps people to awaken their best through its sleep (science) expertise and ultimately drive sign-ups to its sleep advice newsletter. The Shleep Sanctuary took an old wives’ tale sleep hack (counting sheep) and playfully created a unique experience which was still rooted in sleep science, used it to pique the interest of the media and drove the public online right to the heart of Emma’s sleep experts. Sometimes the simplest insight can spark the biggest reaction. With global media lapping up the visual assets, we drove an 87% increase in direct traffic and 78,000 newsletter sign-ups. The success of the Shleep Sanctuary in the UK has led to it being adopted by other markets starting with France.

OBJECTIVES AND THE CHALLENGE: Emma started life as a bed in a box company, delivering quality mattresses direct to your door; a novel experience that has seen it literally expand across the globe. Through the appliance of science, this contortionist of the bedding world has gone on to become an expert in sleep - employing some of the biggest brains in the business to create award-winning beds, mattresses, pillows, blankets and duvets designed for the perfect night’s sleep. Emma is so confident in its ability that it now claims “Emma helps the world to awaken its best”. And it is with that bold claim our challenge was set:


Platform how Emma helps people to awaken their best through its sleep (science) expertise.

Showcase Emma’s world-leading range of products - award-winning mattresses, beds, duvets, pillows, and blankets.

Drive sign-ups to Emma’s sleep advice newsletter by driving traffic to the Emma site.

You could say our target audience is broad. We could throw around segments like millennials and crunch some stats to calculate the number of home-owners and renters who are in the market for a new mattress, bed, duvet or pillow. But in this case, our job was not about generating instant sales amongst niche segments. It was moreover about brand fame and associating Emma with understanding and providing advice on what it takes to have the perfect night’s sleep, which let’s face it, is just about everyone after the year we’ve all faced.

STRATEGY, CREATIVE AND EXECUTION: Which brings us to planning. Firstly, our insight team needed to prove that the puffy-eyed reflections looking back at them in the mirror were due to sleep deprivation, not some white-collar boxing match they’d signed up for at a planner’s convention. Freshly commissioned research found 2022 had indeed brought on significant sleep issues - with over one in five saying they had experienced worse sleep than in 2021. The research also found that Brits had taken to experimenting with sleep hacks, many involving escapism, to help them drift off- including, arguably, the most famous sleep trick of them all: counting sheep. Not just an old wives’ tale, Emma’s sleep experts confirmed to us that ‘imagination distraction’ – as counting sheep is technically known - is scientifically proven to help us sleep quicker, and longer.

With sheep-counting proving as popular as ever, and with almost a quarter of the UK feeling that fresh air (23%), as well as the sound of nature (19%), would also help them sleep, we set about offering the UK a unique experience to bring sheep-counting out of our imagination and into reality. In essence, the ultimate ‘shleep’ experience. Enter the Shleep Sanctuary: the world’s first real-life, sheep-counting sleep experience. Set in a private sleep dome filled with world-leading Emma sleep products, this unique staycation, set in the rolling hills of the Sussex Downs, was launched as a competition prize offering two lucky guests the chance to win the ultimate guided sleep experience and a chance to count real numbered sheep as they drift off under the stars.

With entry being online only, the campaign was purposely designed to drive traffic to the Emma website where prospective entrants were served up information from Emma’s sleep experts on the science behind visualization (counting sheep to sleep) alongside details on the perfect sleeping environment (the Emma products) to help them awaken their best.

Delivery/Implementation of Tactics: As the experience itself wouldn’t take place until Spring 2023, Fanclub created artist impressions of the Shleep Sanctuary, providing media with striking assets capturing the sanctuary’s reason-to-be. Depicting numbered sheep surrounding the dome and featuring Emma products front and center, to report on the Shleep Sanctuary, the media couldn’t help but explain the - Emma sleep expert’s - science behind counting sheep to nod off.

Within the bedding category getting a good night's sleep is commonplace when it comes to marketing messaging and, to be honest, is all a bit samey - pictures of people snuggling down with copy about comfort or some technical jargon around springs. By adopting an emotive playful approach to the facts behind sleep science, we were able to communicate what are pretty dry messages in mass consumer media and drive thousands of people to Emma to sign up for more information from their experts on how to get a good night's sleep.

The Shleep Sanctuary was awarded campaign of the year by the company's founders in their global internal 'Emmies' awards.


Creating brand fame: Shleep Sanctuary was a global sensation, with 240 articles across news, lifestyle, wellness and travel; the visual assets taking the stage alongside the research and competition page links. Not only was it a hit in the UK across the likes of The Express, The Mirror, The Metro, The Sun, and, but it reached overseas press in Germany, France, Spain, Japanese TV News, Australia, India and Brazil creating a ripple effect in Emma’s overseas markets. The launch even reached The New Statesman, and had its own cartoon in Poland’s Angora press review. Overseas markets. The launch even reached The New Statesman, and had its own cartoon in Poland’s Angora press review. A talking point across Heart FM, Magic FM and BBC radio stations, and international radio, the campaign went truly viral and was rated 9.8/10 on the world’s no.1 trend platform, Trendhunter. Such was the excitement amongst the media, Shleep Sanctuary will now also host media and influencers in 2023 where they will be guided by Emma’s sleep experts and experience the products firsthand. Thanks to its international success, Shleep Sanctuary is set to be adopted by other Emma markets with France launching in the spring and Australia in the planning phase.

Driving traffic to Emma and product: The Shleep Sanctuary campaign created high-value earned media links, with an average domain authority (DA) of 46, which importantly drove significant traffic to the Emma site and resulted in over 10,000 consumer entries to win a stay. Year on Year comparisons during the campaign launch window (20.09-16.10) with other marketing spend remaining constant the following results were achieved:

Users / New Users:

88% increase in users overall

328% increase in new users overall


87% increase in direct sessions

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