A seemingly unusual alliance between The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, Madame Tussauds, and Virgin Money has formed to promote a headband-led campaign for Heads Together – the Official Charity of the Year for the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon.
Heads Together aims to use its race status to make this year’s event the ‘mental health marathon’ with an initiative that aims to encourage runners to wear the distinctive blue Heads Together Headbands on Marathon Day to get the country talking about mental health and to raise money for the charity.
The initiative is being spearheaded by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and is launched with a PR-led stunt that sees the royals’ waxwork likenesses don the charity’s headbands
— Virgin Money (@VirginMoney) April 18, 2017
alongside the wax models of several famous athletes including Usain Bolt, Sir Mo Farah and Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill.
— Virgin Money (@VirginMoney) April 17, 2017
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) April 13, 2017
In addition to a press event and supporting images a week ahead of the big race, visitors to the attraction on the day of the marathon (23 April) will also see the models all wearing the Heads Together headbands.
‘Madame Tussauds London is delighted to support the Heads Together campaign by adding the headbands to our Royal and ‘Sporting Greats’ figures,’ explains Madame Tussauds’ Chloe Couchman.
‘The 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon is a moment of celebration and pride, it recognises individual sporting achievement but also the mass achievement of all those thousands of runners who will raise awareness and money for mental health charities and many others charities too. We hope our famous figures in headbands will help get people talking and make it the ‘mental health marathon’ but also inspire the upcoming runners with a few ways in which they can wear their headbands on marathon day.’
On 10 April, Prince Harry also released a video ahead of the marathon to encourage all 39,000 runners to wear the headbands.
‘We want to use this moment to help end the stigma that stops people talking and change the conversation about mental health for good. You can make it the mental health marathon,’ he says.
‘Whatever cause you are running for, wear your vest with pride, and please wear your Heads Together headband too. Together we’ll get the whole country talking about mental health.’
With further social media support across the marathon’s own channels and related platforms.
— London Marathon (@LondonMarathon) April 19, 2017
— London Marathon (@LondonMarathon) April 18, 2017
The headbands themselves are being provided for all runners by Virgin Money – one of the three Heads Together founding partners alongside Dixons Carphone and Unilever UK.
— Heads Together (@heads_together) April 18, 2017
Prince Harry, along with triple jump world record holder Jonathan Edwards CBE and track and field champion Steve Cram CBE, also joined some of the ‘Team Heads Together’ runners (and sponsor brand representatives) for a special London Marathon training day on 21 February at Baltic Square by the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, before visiting Virgin Money’s Gosforth office to meet representatives from the eight charity partners of Heads Together.
Heads Together has also developed a set of digital and social headbands so that non-runners and runners alike can all support the mental health marathon by wearing their own Heads Together headband on social media.
To launch this strand of the campaign, Heads Together and Twitter unveiled a custom emoji of a smiley face wearing a Heads Together headband.
This appears in users’ streams automatically when anyone uses the hashtags #HeadsTogether #TeamHeadsTogether and #oktosay on the social media platform.
— Scott Mann (@scottmannmp) April 19, 2017
A series of other social and physical pop-up surprises in the lead up to the race will appear across the digital and the London landscape.
Plus the Princes and the BBC are further promoting the campaign on air via a national TV programme.
10 people living with mental health issues, united by 1 goal. To run the 2017 #LondonMarathon.
Mind over Marathon. Starts Thursday at 9pm. pic.twitter.com/c6yoNDNRSG
— BBC One (@BBCOne) April 19, 2017
The PR pulling power of the royals, couple with the media assets and reach of Virgin Money and the stunt hook of Madam Tussauds waxworks and the timely mass participation, live TV race itself all combine to create a powerful, attention grabbing trio.
Its status as the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon Charity of the Year offers Heads Together a positive platform to raise funds for the support provided by the campaign’s charity partners and to start millions of conversations.
Heads Together works to ensure that people feel comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing, feel able to support their friends and families through difficult times, and that fear no longer prevents people talking or getting the help they need by tackling stigma, raising awareness, and providing vital help for people with mental health problems.
As well as the royals and the marathon associated brands, other celebrities and sports stars have fronted events and digital and social spots supporting the initiative: including Freddie Flintoff and Stephen Manderson (aka Professor Green),
Stephen Fry and Dr William Shanahan,
Rio Ferdinand and Jamie Moralee,
Jo and Sue Irwin,
and Katharine and Caroline Welby.