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‘Learn to love a sprout’ PR campaign

‘Learn to love a sprout’ PR campaign

Best practice from Watershed Communications.

This campaign won the ReFresh Awards Marketing Campaign of the Year and has been shortlisted for 2 PRide Awards (West of England - Best Use of Media Relations; Best Low Budget Campaign)


Some of the UK’s largest Brussels sprouts growers and packers in the UK felt that there was a need to boost sales of Brussels sprouts and re-invigorate the category.


Many consumers have a very negative image of sprouts, largely based on memories of over-cooked sprouts from their past and the campaign needed to overcome these negative associations.

The period immediately before Christmas is traditionally the peak time for sales of Brussels sprouts so promoting sprouts outside this period was a key part of the brief.

This campaign promoted Brussels sprouts during their growing period, which lasts from September to March.  The campaign relied solely on media relations to gain editorial coverage.


- Increase sales of Brussels sprouts
- Encourage purchase outside of Christmas period
- Educate consumers about best way to cook sprouts
- Communicate the health benefits to the target audience
- Inspire consumers to take a fresh look at sprouts

Given the brief to promote Brussels sprouts to UK consumers we created the ‘Learn to Love a Sprout Campaign’.  

Traditionally, sales are good in the two week period in the run up to Christmas, so encouraging consumers to think about sprouts outside the context of Christmas was a big challenge. 

The strategy was to inspire consumers to take a fresh look at Brussels sprouts providing them with new ways to cook and serve this often maligned vegetable, dispel beliefs that  sprouts are always soggy and sulphurous, and educate consumers about their amazing health benefits. 

The main focus of the campaign was to encourage consumers to reduce the cooking time of sprouts.  This was backed up by scientific information explaining why sprouts become sulphurous if cooked for too long.

Creative photography and inspirational recipes formed the basis of the press material used, accompanied by expert scientific opinion, grower profiles and fascinating facts about the history and health benefits of sprouts.  None of the imagery used had any Christmas props or cues.

To create additional news value, a light-hearted survey was undertaken to find out who cooks and eats sprouts, and to answer the age-old question of whether sprouts give you wind.

Press sampling of what is seen as a commodity – and not very desirable! – vegetable like Brussels Sprouts was always going to be a challenge.  We put careful thought into the best way to achieve this. 

A spoof shot of the ‘Ferrero Rocher butler’ with a tray of sprouts was taken, and the strapline ‘With these Sprouts you’re really spoiling us’ used to inject some humour into the campaign.

To overcome perceptions of sprouts as the soggy, smelly vegetable of many people’s memories, the information in the press pack focused on scientifically based advice on the best way to cook sprouts, backed up by the British Nutrition Foundation.

Photography was clean and contemporary, in keeping with the campaign’s theme of presenting sprouts as a healthy and delicious vegetable for many meal occasions.

Creativity – what makes the campaign stand out?

As the campaign relied solely on editorial coverage for its success, the key was to engage with the media. 

Journalists were each personally contacted and offered the sprouts press kit prior to it being sent out so they were already expecting it.

The press kits were presented in a beautifully gift-wrapped box in sprout wrapping paper – created specifically for the campaign.  Each gift contained a sprout stalk, vegetable steamer together with the press information and a CD containing the photo library.

Feedback from the journalists was overwhelmingly positive and they loved the tongue in cheek nature of the presentation of the press kit.  In fact, the Mail on Sunday’s You Magazine went so far as to write:

“We might not have mentioned s****** in polite society except for the wit of the press pack that presented four of them wrapped to look remarkably like, well, you guess, plus a pic in which they were substituted for the foiled tower of chocs at the ambassador’s reception in the ad.” - You Magazine, 17 December 2006

Through a relationship with the charity Breast Cancer Haven, five celebrities were approached to provide their favourite Brussels sprout recipe.

These were sold in as an exclusive feature to Hello! magazine in January, together with information and facts focusing on the health benefits to extend the coverage beyond the Christmas period.

A total of 86 pieces of coverage was achieved, with a total circulation of 26,546,669 and a readership of 79,640,007

This provided an AVE of £214,246

Three broadcast interviews/features were secured with an audience figure of 13,112,000 (RAJAR).

This provided an AVE of  £35,000

A total audience reach of 39,658,669 via print and broadcast media was achieved, with an AVE of £249,246.00.
Coverage highlights include:
Woman & Home
Sainsbury’s Magazine
You are what you eat
Easy Living
My Weekly
Mail on Sunday, You Magazine 
The Sun   
Daily Express
Sunday Post
Reading Evening Post
Yorkshire Post
Lancashire Evening Post
Guernsey Press & Star  
BBC Radio 2 - Chris Evans show


 “Marks and Spencer were delighted to be one of the many beneficiaries of the increase in sprout business of up to a 20% rise in sales of Brussels sprouts during the 'learn to love a sprout campaign'” - Philip Symons, Produce Buyer M&S


The campaign’s total PR budget was under £10,000!

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