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How the National Osteoporosis Society reached out to school kids

How the National Osteoporosis Society reached out to school kids

Best practice from digital specialists, E3.

The National Osteoporosis Society had a challenge – to educate children and their carers to recognise the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to build stronger bones while young.

E3 had to create an exciting online campaign and interactivity was a must.

As part of our campaign planning, we asked children how they wanted to learn and found out they only wanted to play. This proved a critical part of the site’s success. They prompted us to design a website with a brightly-coloured platform game, quizzes and a variety of resources including lesson plans and video tutorials for the teachers.

The focus of the campaign revolved around five new characters we developed to bring the message of strong bones to life. Children are passionate about the characters and love going online to learn about preventing osteoporosis.

The online campaign was promoted to children and teachers across the whole of the UK for a fraction of the cost of the previous printed packs and the charity cancelled this years’ entire print run.

In fact, what started off as an online campaign has changed the way the National Osteoporosis Society communicates. Their marketing mix now has digital at its heart and the online campaign is supported by PR and even experiential marketing – they now have a life-sized Sneakers mascot to join them at teaching shows.


In the UK, one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 will break a bone, mainly as a result of osteoporosis. The most important time to build bone strength, to protect against osteoporosis in older age, is during childhood and adolescence.

The National Osteoporosis Society is the only UK wide charity dedicated to tackling osteoporosis and wanted to raise awareness of the need for bone healthy lifestyles in our youth, to build stronger bones, thus helping to prevent osteoporosis in later life.

Prior to launching the website in May 2009, a Healthy Bones teaching resource for primary schools was used – a printed loose-leaf pack contained in a PVC folder, costing £10 each.

The pack contained numerous factsheets and featured an outdated skeleton character – who implied that bones are dead, when they are in fact living.
There were concerns that the packs were too costly, especially since they were not always used and teacher research confirmed this.

Campaign objectives

• To educate teachers, parents and carers of primary school aged children about the benefits of a bone healthy lifestyle

• Make the idea of healthy bones come to life

• Keep costs low and save paper costs

• Ensure content is always up-to-date and relevant

Strategy and implementation

E3 recognised the importance of engaging two primary audiences – teachers and children – so we adopted a two pronged approach. We undertook research to ensure that we were developing content and usability around their mindset.

1. Teachers helped to develop educational content

Teachers said they wanted a highly-engaging, educational and interactive website specifically linked to the national curriculum. The teachers’ section hosts a variety of resources including lesson plans and assembly materials. We also consulted with teachers to develop the dedicated, brightly-coloured, interactive children’s section which includes a game, quizzes and a picture gallery.

2. E3 worked with children to bring the concept to life

We collaborated with local school children to think of their own inspired character names. It was at this stage that we realised how enthused children were about the characters, which ultimately led to the concept for the Sneakers’ Rescue Run game – a key part of the campaign.

The solution

Bring healthy bones to life for children

E3 created some exciting new characters that appealed to both girls and boys. The ‘goodies’ called Sneakers, Blaze and Munch represent the key elements of healthy bones. The ‘baddies’, Bonecrusher Bert and Knuckles, will teach of the dangers of maintaining a lazy lifestyle and poor diet.

The characters are used throughout the website to show how good bone health can be achieved. One particularly successful element is Sneakers’ Rescue Run – a platform game featuring the character Sneakers: eat an apple or get power from sunlight to prevent osteoporosis and progress up the levels.

Key facts for teachers

Key facts from the national curriculum were extracted to provide a small, user-friendly, targeted resource that would be fully utilised.

Now teachers can go online and print the appropriate factsheets or lesson plans as and when they need them, which drastically reduces the charity’s print costs.

The web as a means of engaging offline teaching

Teachers required interactive content they could build a lesson around and they can go online and utilise the ‘Boogie for your Bones’ video clips. Teachers are assisted to create an engaging lesson by teaching the dance routine which promotes bone health, by using a video showing the dance moves.


Teachers love our characters and the content of the website

The feedback about the Bones4life website has been extremely praiseworthy.

Simon Brown, Year 5 teacher at Christchurch Primary School in Bradford on Avon, was impressed with the site functionality.

“It’s great when we find a resource that both educates and entertains. The children are fascinated by the fun characters and games, in turn learning all about their bones.”

One of the key objectives was to engage children

Sophie, a pupil from Christchurch Primary School also gave her views:
 “The website is really fun – especially the game which is challenging. I really like the characters as well." 

• The game is proving one of the most popular features as nearly 25% of visitors to the site go on to play the game.

• Highly impressive average time on site: 4 minutes 11 seconds.

Huge cost savings – we’ve saved thousands of pounds and tons of paper

The total budget for the project was £40,000 – this cost is the equivalent to printing just 4000 Healthy Bones packs. The online resource has already saved the National Osteoporosis Society several thousands of pounds, as this year’s print run was cancelled and postage costs eliminated.

The website allowed them to produce more content and make it more widely available. In fact, they can now target all schools in the UK rather than sporadically where their support groups are based. They would never have been able to raise enough funds to be able to do this when using the printed packs.

Keeping the site up-to-date

The website uses a content management system (CMS), so that content can be updated as and when necessary. This ensures that the site is always up-to-date and relevant to the national curriculum. The CMS is better than expected as they have the ability to upload healthy bones pictures that children draw in their lessons.

Rob Dawson, Campaigns Officer, said, “We have efficiently produced an effective website that demonstrates the importance of bone health to this crucial audience.

"It’s given us an engaging platform which makes teaching young people about bone health both easy and fun. Teachers have everything they need and the children want to learn. It’s a great success.”

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