The Sunday Star-Times led campaign encouraged parents to take the pledge and walk, cycle or scooter with their kids to school. Using native advertising, celebrity and social media the Foot It campaign created a nationwide movement that resulted in public submissions to councils, walking school buses and neighbours coming together to create safer roads for their children.
Since 1996 the number of children being driven to school has almost doubled. This has led to an increased risk for children walking to school and crossing roads, increases in traffic congestion, more cars outside schools and, sadly, preventable child fatalities.
To help keep our children safe and active, Sunday Star-Times Editor Jonathan Milne championed a culture change and laid down a challenge: walk your kids to school, see how much happier it makes them and see that fewer cars make for safer roads.
Our idea was to lead a public awareness campaign to bring attention to the benefits of Footing It and to rally New Zealanders to help create safer communities for their families.
We would talk to New Zealanders through a cross-platform campaign that brought issues important to them to the forefront, shared their stories and worked to engage local councils in those issues, aiming to create change beyond the duration of the campaign.
What We Did
We publicly campaigned in the Sunday Star-Times, Stuff and on Neighbourly (New Zealand’s fastest growing social network), targeting three audiences, each with a different message:
Families: Choose one day a week to walk or ride with your kids to school
Schools: set up walking school buses with parent volunteers to get kids to school safely.
Councils: Create and enforce lower speed zones around schools.
To target these audiences we used celebrity (like Blues player Jerome Kaino, broadcaster Alison Mau and many more) and powerful stories that highlighted the lives changed by being active on the way to school and the lives lost through high speed zones or a lack of pedestrian crossings.
The Sunday Star-Times published a survey of all 66 local authorities that highlighted the number of New Zealand schools that had variable speed zones and active signage to alert drivers to school children.
The survey found that of 2500-plus schools in New Zealand, only 407 had 40km/h variable speed zones.
Following the survey we wrote to all 66 councils and asked what they were doing to make our roads safer for school children.
Community stories across our local newspapers, Neighbourly and Stuff Nation were important in driving awareness and creating engagement with our audience. Micro Scooters NZ Ltd gave us 70 high-end scooters to help us encourage readers to share their stories and take a lead in their communities.
Community stories were an important part of this campaign. Led by the innovative interconnection of Neighbourly (where parents could get great tips for being active enroute to school and night before reminders) and the pledge campaign, where people signed up to clubs and pledged to ‘foot it’ to school with their kids once a week, putting them in the draw to win one of 50 micro scooters. This turned Neighbourly into the Foot It hub for communities across New Zealand and gave people them space to pitch ideas about how to best create safer roads and communities for their children.
The Sunday Star-Times is New Zealand’s most popular newspaper with readers spending up to 50 minutes a week reading it. Helmed by SST editor Jonathan Milne, and bolstered by Stuff’s reputation for rallying New Zealanders behind national and local causes, we knew we could reach and speak to communities across NZ in a meaningful and engaging way.
On Stuff the campaign garnered 55,000 page views but the biggest results came in our ability to mobilise local councils.
We asked all 66 of them how they were going to make roads safer for our kids and by the end of the campaign half of councils had committed to reducing speed outside the school gates.
Community leaders and New Zealand celebrities rallied around Foot It. The campaign received high praise from local authorities, including the mayor of the Far North, Stuart Crosby, mayor of Tauranga; Karleen Edwards, Christchurch City Council Chief Executive and Nelson Mayor, Rachel Reese.
These comments were followed by communities utilising Neighbourly to establish local cycling and walking groups, to petition local councils to improve dangerous intersections and have established walking school buses or safe houses to help kids get out of cars.
What the Community said
Renee Wright, TVNZ1 Weather Anchor said, “We've got a nice straight road to school that the kids can scooter on. My kids are so high energy that it is good to do that before they have to settle into class or kindy. That physical activity lowers everyone's stress levels so it's a win-win.”
Michael Van de Elzen, renowned chef and owner of the Food Truck Garage, said, “Eventually we want to encourage them to look after themselves and catch the bus themselves, even though it's hard as parents letting go. We try and be as proactive as we possibly can about getting them out and active – which includes the trips to school and also getting out and playing with our new puppy, Hector."
Tara Peneha, from Maungaraki, said, “This week dad wanted to be included so we did it on Wednesday instead. Instead of driving the whole way to daycare for our 2yo we walked from the reserve at the bottom of our hill (Percy's Scenic Reserve) and walked to the daycare by Petone train station. Our son absolutely loved the walk home with mum and dad and his little brother in the snap n go."
Felicity Buche, from St Heliers, said, “We had a blast scootering to school yesterday. What a fun way to start the day. It's mostly a gentle downhill slope from our house to school, heading towards the glorious sparkling harbour of St Heliers. The kids tell me that they love it because they are doing it with me.”