Royal Merchant Navy Education Foundation

Building Bridges

At Spider, we love an obscure challenge. So when the Royal Merchant Navy Education Foundation (RMNEF) asked us to help it connect with families of those who’d served in the merchant navy we said, “Aye, Aye Captain!”

The Merchant Navy once ruled the waves but had become the forgotten sector over recent decades. Our mission was simple: put the Merchant Navy back on the map and raise awareness of the unique issues facing merchant navy families. To do this we devised and wrote The Bridge Report – a hard-hitting look at the challenges facing the sector and those who worked within it.

Our emotive campaign put the RMNEF firmly in the spotlight, ultimately leading to them having the highest number of beneficiaries in 30 years. The campaign also led to the RMNEF getting itself a shiny new celebrity ambassador in Jonathan Dimbleby.

pieces of coverage

people reached in the first two months,

Early Day Motion Tabled in Parliament

The Client

The RMNEF offers support to the disadvantaged children, in full-time education or training, of current and former Merchant Navy Seafarers, and of professional sea-going fishermen and RNLI crew members.

Abiding by the motto “Education Is The Foundation”, since 1827 the RMNEF has helped thousands of ‘Foundationers’ achieve their educational and career-led goals. The RMNEF offers support including contributions towards school or university fees, living expenses while in fulltime education, educational books, visits or equipment, school uniform costs and a great deal more.

They Said

The campaign objectives were to:

  • Drive potential beneficiaries to the RMNEF website
  • Showcase the varied educational support the RMNEF could offer
  • Remind the UK about the historic and present-day importance of the Merchant Navy
  • Be an advocate for all Britons who are struggling to provide the best education for their children

Spider’s campaign raised huge awareness of the Merchant Navy and our charity, securing us national profile and ultimately leading to the highest number of beneficiaries we’d had in 30 years. We subsequently used their services to help create a video to celebrate our 190th anniversary which was exceptionally powerful.

Charles Heron-Watson, CEO

Challenge Accepted

We ran the numbers and worked out there were 30,000 children and young adults eligible for RMNEF support – a niche audience. We knew that to find and engage these audiences and to drive them to the RMNEF website, we would need persistent messaging and targeted campaigns. We made “Education Is The Foundation” the basis of the campaign, around which were designed two major creatives – one on the Merchant Navy itself, and one more broadly on education.

Coverage in the maritime trade media was essential but we also saw the value of exposure in national, consumer, student and broadcast media and designed campaigns that would appeal to all of these. Key to this was our strategy to make the RMNEF the ‘go-to’ experts in the educational space. Our work centered around two creative campaigns:


  • The Bridge Report – a Spider-authored report exploring the unique issues facing Merchant Navy families. The report featured a foreword from HM The Queen and was launched with a full-scale media campaign, generating exceptional levels of coverage. Spider designed the heavily-branded report to be a resource for all maritime organisations, and 5,000 copies were distributed to Merchant Navy members through trade bodies and charities. As a result of the campaign, an Early Day Motion was tabled in Government by a Labour MP for debate in the House. In addition to this, the RMNEF secured a new patron – the esteemed author, historian and broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby.
  • The True Cost of Education. We conducted research into the true cost of education in the UK and calculated this was over £17,000 per child out of earned income. This provided the RMNEF with a platform to use to explain the support they could offer qualifying families. Spider’s media campaign secured significant coverage in national and consumer media, much of which included affiliate links, driving traffic to the RMNEF website.

Job Done

Our campaigns delivered:

  • Over 1,500 visits to the RMNEF website
  • Beneficiary offers from three major UK charities
  • 5,000 copies of The Bridge Report distributed through other charities and trade bodies making it an ongoing source of beneficiary leads
  • 70 pieces of coverage in target media (including 11 national), a 45-minute interview slot on BBC Radio and 25 pieces in the key maritime trade. Spider also secured valuable exposure on the influential Netmums website
  • An Early Day Motion tabled in Parliament
  • A new high-profile ambassador for the Charity (Jonathan Dimbleby)
  • A total circulation of +600m and a media ROI of 5:1

Crucially, our campaign drove potential beneficiaries to the website – resulting in the highest number in 30 years.

What We Learnt

With the right angle, even smaller and niche charities can and gain national attention. Our campaign for the RNMNEF not only raised awareness of the challenges facing the merchant navy, but placed the RMNEF on the national stage securing very widespread awareness, and a new (very famous) ambassador to boot. Crucially, our campaign delivered the highest number of beneficiaries for over 30 years.


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