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CQueens Investigate: Comic Relief Popularity & Donations Analysis

Author: Amanda Hosking, Editor: Hayley Cowburn

Red Nose Day is a fundraising event held every two years by the charity Comic Relief. The event aims to raise awareness of the charity and to help those in need in the UK and Africa who are suffering from poverty or prejudice.

Red Noses go on sale before the event and the money raised from the sales will go to the charity. People all around the country including major celebrities love to get involed with their own fundraising activities and donations. Red Nose Day ends with a whole night of comedy, shorts and emotional documentaries on BBC1. At the end of the night the amount of money raised for the charity is revealed.

We look forward to Red Nose Day every year during our preparation for this year's comic relief cotent, we noticed a year-on-year downward trend for "comic relief" and "red nose day" UK searches in Google trends. This suggested to us that the public may be losing interest in the event, forgetting, interested in other charities, unable to take part or generally have less cash to donate.  Here's a screenshot of the "interest over time" graph below. 

red nose day interest over timeSource: Google Trends

We began to wonder if this graph (Google Trends) could predict the performance of the Comic Relief event this year, so we research the total donations raised on each night from 2007 and awaited the results for this year (2017). Donations had been on a steady rise, looking as though Google trends, as of yet, was no indication. 

Edit: Since the night on 2017, we have observed a decrease in total donations raised on the night. The drop was from £78 million in 2015 to £71.3 million. If you were to include money raised fromSport Relief, the drop is even more significant for Comic Relief, from £99.4 million to £71.3.

red nose day donations 2017


Although the donations have increased each year, the increases were relatively small between 2011 and 2015, compared to the previous years. As you can see from the graph, donations seem to be consistent between 2011 and 2015, but do not increase much.

Donations from 2007-2009 rose by £17,573,796, whereas donations from 2013-2015 only rose by £2,975,137. This indicates people are still donating, but the significant increases of previous years are no longer present. This could be due to the public having less money in the current climate and thus cannot afford to donate as much money as they previously would have.

Another reason for this occurrence may be the increase in online TV viewing with more people opting to watch On Demand, Netflix, Now TV, and Amazon Video. These portals do not contain advertisements, meaning viewers will fail to see Red Nose Day adverts. This could then cause less viewers to tune into the Comic Relief program and thus lead to fewer donations on the actual night.

Below are Comic Relief viewing figures from 2007-2015.*

*Updated to include 2017 viewing figures. 

comic relief ratings 2017

These figures show 2015 had the lowest number of viewers tuning into the show. This supports the idea that people are straying away from live TV and opting for alternatives such as Netflix and Now TV. The advances in digital technology mean Comic Relief need to target people in new ways such as via social media, YouTube, and more online avenues. This may encourage individuals to tune into the show and donate.

And Comic Relief are doing just that, with their new 2017 marketing approach, which aims to make use of new digital technology and platforms to attract more young people to its cause. Whereas Red Nose Day usually focuses on schools, it is placing its attention on social media this year.

The aim is to reach more young people through social media and engage with them in new ways. As digital technology is a big part of young people’s everyday life, it is a great idea to promote Comic Relief this way. It should help to get the message across via avenues other than schools and television advertising.

Edit: Since we updated our graph following 2017's Red Nose Day broadcast, viewing figures appear to have decreased by almost a quarter since the last event (2015), from 8.48 million to 6.3 million. Could this be due to more viewers opting to watch on catch-up and donating later? Or is there simply less interest in the UK as implied by the decrease in search we originally noticed in Google Trends?

comic relief
Image: Comedy.co.uk


The charity has gone more "digital" and collaborated this year with YouTube stars to relay their message. On Sunday 12th March at 6pm, 35 YouTube stars ‘Redded-Out’ their YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter accounts for 24 hours to show their support for Comic Relief. Fans going onto these accounts were taken to a Red Nose Day video about the struggles young people face all over the world. The aim was to raise awareness of the charity. In addition, on Red Nose Day itself the charity will be putting out a Live Snapchat story, and updates on fundraising are constantly updated on their Facebook page. So, we shall see if this new approach will increase donations to an all-time high this year – let’s hope so!

Edit: Thankfully Red Nose Day is still making a huge difference to parts of the world often forgotten amongst the chaos and politics of our own lives. In fact, the total amount of money raised by the charity in its history passed the £1 billion mark in 2015. Hopefully, the fluctuation in results this year is a reflection of uncertain political and financial times for people at home and that the charity will continue to go on strong as it has since 1985 and see yet more increases.