Looking for new occasions to celebrate?

Every one of us probably has more than enough dates and events to remember during the year, what with birthdays, anniversaries, high days and holidays. But if the marketing and PR industries had their way, there’d be many more.

That’s because alongside the traditional calendar we all use, there is an alternative one filled with national ‘this’ day and national ‘that’ week. Many of these made-up events fizzle out before they’ve got going but others gather momentum, garner support and become annual events.
There’s everything from Welly Week to National Doodle Day - they may seem rather pointless events but dig a bit deeper and you’ll find their aim is often to raise awareness of important issues.

Welly Week, with its call for us all to wear wellies to work, sounds very eccentric until you realise it is organised by Garden Organic, to raise funds to help educate people about organic gardening, farming and food. And as for National Doodle Day, that’s been created to raise money for those whose lives are affected by epilepsy and neurofibromatosis.

There’s also Wrong Trousers Day, inspired by Oscar winners Wallace & Gromit. The idea here is to pay £1 to look ‘wrong’ for the day by wearing the wrong trousers. Money raised goes to help sick children in hospitals and hospices.

Of course, there are other events that you will already have heard of, such as Fairtrade Fortnight. This year it runs from March 6-19 and the theme is Make Fairtrade Your Habit. Margaret Rooke, consultant for the Fairtrade Foundation, says: “As ever, it is hoped that this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight will be the biggest yet. Retailers and the trade are already showing greater interest than ever.
“The theme for the last Fairtrade Fortnight was Check Out Fairtrade - where we asked consumers to check out the core guarantees provided by the Fairtrade Mark and then take the Fairtrade products to the checkout.

“There were 7,500 local events all over the country, everything from Fairtrade fairs and tastings to Fairtrade football matches. Comedian Harry Hill dressed up in a specially made Co-op cashier’s shirt, complete with his trademark huge collar, for a photo shoot at the till of a Co-op store in West London as he urged Londoners to ‘Check out Fairtrade’.”

Rooke says many new products were launched to mark Fairtrade Fortnight and the Foundation worked closely with retailers to deliver in-store promotional offers and tastings.

She says: “The idea of Fairtrade Fortnight is to provide a concentrated promotional opportunity, combining community activity with a strong retail element, so that local debates, open-air events or tasting stands in workplaces, churches, town halls and schools are complemented with in-store promotion. Representatives of Fairtrade farmers from across the world travel to the UK every year to play a major part in the events. They tour the country, meeting those at the other end of the supply chain - the people who buy their produce.”

Another high-profile event is Organic Week, and as the only major brand of bottled water to have organic accreditation for its water catchment area, Highland Spring has been one of the principal sponsors of Organic Week for three years.

Highland Spring marketing director Sally Stanley says: “A key objective of Organic Week is to encourage people to try organic food and we are happy to support the Soil Association’s initiative in this regard. Organic Week has become a major event in the organic calendar and is communicated to tens of thousands of consumers through events like the Organic Food Festival and through literature and retailer support.”

Meat substitute Quorn is a sponsor of National Vegetarian Week. Quorn brand manager Emma Fox says: “With the growing trend towards meat reduction and healthy eating, consumers are looking for healthy eating options. Both Quorn and the Vegetarian Society want to raise awareness of all the healthy options that are on offer and that’s why the sponsorship of National Vegetarian Week is such a great opportunity for both parties.”

Warburtons National Bread Week was created in 2001 to communicate the health benefits of bread to consumers.

Sarah Miskell, category marketing controller at Warburtons, says: “The campaign for National Bread Week is predominately PR-led, generating lots of media coverage about the health messages.

“It complements the other activities that Warburtons runs throughout the year as well as the profile-raising activities that the Federation of Bakers is involved with, to help change media and consumer perceptions about bread. While the campaign is predominantly consumer-focused, Warburtons would welcome any support from retailers in raising the profile of the bakery category among their shoppers.”

Launched in 1997, British Sandwich Week has grown to become a real event in the food industry calendar. Jim Winship, director of the British Sandwich Association, explains: “In 1997 market research found that there were no strong sandwich brands and there was a need to drive the market.

Sandwich Week was created as a marketing mechanism and has gone on to be hugely successful. It reaches 30 million consumers every year and has had a huge impact on the industry.

“We produce posters and point of sale material so retailers can get involved. Many c-stores will be buying their sandwiches in from manufacturers so if they want to get involved in Sandwich Week they need to tell them and I am sure they will be able to help.”

Another well-supported event is National BBQ Week, which has secured the backing of big chains Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Somerfield, Co-op, Budgens and Iceland. Activity includes the Britain’s Best barbecuer competition, sponsored by Asda. More than 3,500 entered last year’s competition.

There is also the BBQ Bus Roadshow that visits supermarkets throughout the summer months. Last year it went to Tesco Extra stores, Asda, Sainsbury’s Savacentres and Morrisons to demonstrate barbecue techniques and let consumers sample the fare.

The idea behind National BBQ Week is not just to encourage people to have more barbecues but also to let them know about more sophisticated preparation methods, grilling and presentation techniques. and to pass on safety and hygiene tips. Expect the 2006 events to be bigger than ever as National BBQ Week celebrates its 10th anniversary.

Many of these events are quite simple to get involved with - by making special displays of related products in store or by running promotions. For Bug Busting Day you’d need a display of anti-head lice lotions, as this day is meant to eradicate the creepy crawlies, while during Be Nice to Nettles week you could experience an increase in sales of nettle tea.

Okay so that’s pretty unlikely, but some of the other ‘days’ and ‘weeks’ are definitely worth considering - they may not seem that relevant to your business but they could be a way of raising your store’s profile in the community. They could add a bit of fun, raise money for charity and create some goodwill.

Your alternative calender for 2006

22-28 - Farmhouse Breakfast Week - highlighting the importance of breakfast

23-27 - Food Allergy and Intolerance Week

29 - National Potato Day

31 - Bug Busting Day - tackling the problem of head lice

3 - UNICEF Day for Change - national non-uniform day where kids wear what they want to school in return for a small donation to UNICEF

7-14 - National Bramley Apple Week

14-20 - National Chip Week

3 - National Doodle Day

6-19 - Fairtrade Fortnight

8 - No Smoking Day

12-18 - Obesity Awareness Week

13-16 - Brain Awareness Week

14-20 - National Ideas Week

22 - World Day for Water

1-8 - Welly Week

11-17 - National Bread Week

22 - Hug Day (Helping Unite Generations). A new event to raise money for lonely older people

29-May 7 - National Pet week

6-13 - National Doughnut Week - bakers raise money for The Children’s Trust

13 - World Fairtrade Day

14-20 - British Sandwich Week

15-21 - National Smile Week - British Dental Health Federation communicates the benefits of better oral care

15-19 - National Allergy Week

17-26 - Be Nice to Nettles Week

22-26 - National Vegetarian Week

29-June 4 - National BBQ Week

1 - National Independents’ Day

1-7 - Volunteers Week

5 - World Environment Day

15 - Bug Busting Day

24 - Wrong Trousers Day

26-30 - The Big Recycle - encouraging households to do more recycling

15-16 - Sport Relief 2006 including The Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Mile

5-20 - Marine week. Celebrating the UK’s sea animals and plants

13 - National Left Handers’ Day
28 - National Zoo Awareness Day

Dates for the rest of 2006 are still to be confirmed