Looking ridiculous for a cause Article icon

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Sales rep Aidan Goodall looks ridiculous and he knows it. But that's all part of the fun of Movember and 28 year old Goodall is happy to look a fool, with a patchy bit of fluff on his upper lip, for a worthwhile cause.

Along with 1.9 million men in 21 countries, Goodall and his cousins have grown moustaches in November over the past three years - both to raise money and awareness of prostate cancer. Their grandfather has the disease.
 
Goodall explains: 'To be honest, the more ridiculous you look the better as then people stare and ask you why. It gets people talking.'
 
Movember estimates that 300,000 men in the UK turned themselves into 'walking, talking billboards', raising awareness of the risk of prostate cancer, during November.
 
Movember is the cool cancer campaign that is attracting 25 to 30 year olds in droves. It also has, for so young a charity, an achingly influential list of corporate backers and supporters.
 
The story of Movember begins in Melbourne just nine years ago. Two friends, Travis Garone and Luke Slattery, were having a quiet beer when the talk turned to bygone fashion trends for facial hair. The duo decided to persuade their friends to grow a Mo (Australian slang for moustache) for the month of November, and found 30 willing to take up the challenge - each paid A$10 to grow a moustache, which was donated to a prostate cancer charity.
 
Their strange challenge struck a chord, so much so that the following year the duo decided to launch a formal campaign and Adam Garone, Travis's brother, joined to create a website and register a company. Formal links with prostate cancer charities were also forged.
 
The campaign had spread to New Zealand by 2006 and small, unofficial campaigns ran in the UK and Spain. But today Movember has spread to 21 countries.
 
The facts
 
One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK, one man is diagnosed every 15 minutes and a man will die from prostate cancer every hour - that's more than 10,000 men in the UK this year.
 
But men are reluctant to talk about their health or even to visit their doctor to discuss personal matters. Women's health campaigns are directed at the mainstream and have mainstream sponsorship, but men's health campaigns were rare and hard to pursue - until Movember came along.
 
Jon Sim, a community manager at Movember's UK headquarters, explains: 'Prostate cancer affects men of all ages. It has been thought of as an old man's disease - there's a kind of complacency that it's the cancer that won't kill you. But Movember starts conversations and lets men know there is no room for complacency. It's about talking to your mates and being more honest about your health, while having a bit of fun.'
 
Movember's original rules still apply. So-called Mo Bros start the month clean shaven, then grow and groom their moustaches over the next 30 days. Under no circumstances is the Mo allowed to meet side burns - that's a beard.
 
Since 2008, Movember has taken London by storm and the UK has become one of the biggest supporters of the movement. Last year more that £79.3 million was raised globally, including £22 million from the UK. Funds raised within the UK are directed to programmes run by Movember and its men's health partners Prostate Cancer UK and The Institute of Cancer Research.
 
Corporate support
 
Many people find Movember on their own, but the campaign has also been strong in workplaces and among students, wherever groups of men gather together.
 
Sim works with companies in the Square Mile, the financial district of London, and corporate supporters include Fidelity, Barclays, Jupiter Investments and Deutsche Bank. 'We appeal to the innate competitiveness of the City. At the start of the month we go in with Gillette, a corporate partner, and organise corporate shave downs. Then we have a pop-up barbers in Carnaby Street mid-way through the month and guys will come down for a drink and a trim.'
 
The Financial Services Authority is one of the City institutions that encourage employees to support Movember. Martin Wheatley, chief executive-designate of the new Financial Conduct Authority, has allowed his moustachioed image to be used to promote the event. The FSA has signed up 144 people - including 130 Mo Bros - and activities have spread beyond male facial hair to bake offs, quizzes and raffles.
 
'It's dear to our staff's hearts. It has really come from the grass roots up,' explains Trudi Morgan, community affairs officer at the FSA. Last year, two divisions raised £12,000 but this year the FSA is hopeful that, with the support of the whole body, it could raise at least £30,000. 'It's for a very good cause and also good for staff morale. You can instantly see who's participating and it brings people together. It's a nice initiative that's easily achieved,' says Morgan.
 
Outside the Square Mile, other corporate supporters include Deloitte, Virgin Media, and HP Sauce, which for the second year running changed its logo from the Houses of Parliament to a moustache. Royal Mail also franked six million items of mail with moustaches for two weeks at the end of October and two weeks in November. It has pledged to match whatever its 150,000 employees raise for the charity.
 
British Airways is another big supporter and has painted a 'connoisseur' moustache on an Airbus A319 to support the campaign, which is spearheaded by chairman Sir Martin Broughton. The airline is encouraging its employees to join in and is hosting a number of road shows to educate them on health issues. Liz Wilkinson, head of health services at British Airways, explains that Movember resonates with the company because its former chief executive Lord Marshall suffered from prostate cancer. Last year, men from across the airline raised over £80,000 for Prostate Cancer UK.
 
As Movember's Sim points out: 'This started in a pub in 2003 and now we are dealing with some of the biggest companies in the UK.' Legal firm Eversheds, banking group Macquarie and PepsiCo are all corporate partners while jewellers Links of London, grooming suppliers Penhaligon's, burger chain Byron and Spitfire Ale are supporting partners.
 
Other charities are jealous
 
The charity is also pushing into the mainstream by working with the Football League. More footballers than ever before are expected to grow their Movember mo. Hannah Shannon, head of communications at Macmillan Cancer Support, says: 'Movember has been the envy of many a fundraiser in the charity world. It has made fundraising fun and found a way to reach a really difficult to target male audience, who have taken on the event and made it their own.'
 
It has made a difficult health message into something that is seen as edgy and cool, rather than serious and scary, Shannon adds. Julia Lalla-Maharajh, the former director of communications for London First who has founded the Orchid Project, a charity dedicated to ending female genital cutting, believes that Movember has set a new benchmark for charities. 'The success of Movember is that it has made it possible to talk about a taboo subject,' she says, adding that Movember's simplicity is a large part of its appeal to the corporate world. Businesses respond to direct messages. If a charity is not embarrassed about their message, it allows businesses to talk about it too and to be ultimately associated with something that is making lives better.'
 
Perhaps the biggest global company to support Movember is Google, which has made several Chrome Movember videos, and whose staff are big supporters of the cause. Google's affection for Movember is easy to understand, because this campaign would not have taken off in quite the same way without the Internet.
 
Once registered on Movember.com, Mo Bros can create their own Mo Space where they can post pictures, see their fundraising tally and ask friends to rate their growing moustache. Mo Space is linked to Facebook and Twitter and indeed the charity has grown in tandem with the rise of the social networks, which have allowed it to spread rapidly, particularly amongst the 25 to 35 year old age group.
 
Research by Radian6, the social marketing consultancy, revealed that nearly one million conversations about Movember took place across social networks at the beginning of November. Participants use social networks to ask supporters for donations but also to demonstrate their hair growth. Footballer Michael Owen, for example, regularly tweeted pictures of his facial hair.
 
But ordinary Mo Bros also use the social networks to compare experiences and raise awareness. Radian6 found that discussions on social networks regularly included the phrases 'see a doctor' and 'getting checked', showing that the fun is triggering serious conversations.
 
'The use of social media is a big part of helping to raise awareness and another way for people to ask for donations,' explains Hywel Mills, partnership manager at Movember.com . 'You can link directly from your Mo Space page on Movember.com to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn - whatever your preferred network is.'
 
Back in his car, sales rep Goodall, is preparing to move on to his next appointment. 'There's quite a few of us back in the office who are doing it this year,' he says. There is tacit approval from his seniors. 'They don't mind. Although my boss did say she'd sponsor me to shave it off,' he grins.