Warburtons: the largest bakery brand in the UK

With family at the heart of the business and pioneers of the industry, Warburton’s philosophy is to provide honest good sense on issues of health and well-being.


Addressing a challenge

A high-profile baking company pairing up with a not-for-profit organisation that hosts events involving physical activity might seem like an unusual marriage – but thanks to CAF, a partnership between the two proved possible.

Going against the grain, Warburtons set out to increase community engagement opportunities in disadvantaged areas, whilst also improving attitudes toward fitness.

To achieve this, they asked for guidance from CAF’s corporate team, who identified parkrun as a partner to deliver targeted junior parkrun, a series of 2k events for children aged between 4 and 14, across disadvantaged areas of the UK.

CAF’s corporate team advised both parties from start to finish and over the three-year partnership, the events grew, surpassing the original ambition of 72 to a remarkable 101.

Now, thousands more children and families are taking part in the running events thanks to the three-part collaboration.

The events are still held today, leaving a legacy that will carry on for many years to come, independently of the work and funding from the partnership.

Stronger families, stronger communities

It isn’t easy to feel confident enough to take part in an organised community event involving physical activity.

But for numerous families, including the Saddique family from Oldham the junior parkrun was the
incentive they needed to get out and about.

Speaking about the event, father Shazad Shaddique said: “Junior parkrun has definitely made us a stronger family unit, we all get to spend quality time being outdoors and active together. We have also just introduced my niece and nephew to junior parkrun and their father Javed has started running with them too. They all love it.” 

And since starting running at Alexandra junior parkrun, siblings Ismael (age 12) and Eesah (age 10) now take part in cross country at school, something they say they wouldn’t have felt confident enough to do previously.

Driving impact in disadvantaged communities

Not only did the events grow exponentially, but by year three, over 100,000 participants were taking part, and said they were likely to stick with parkrun and physical activity long into the future.

And according to a 2018 survey, the events have helped make running a part of peoples’ lifestyles, with 59% of parents (67,000 children) saying their child now has an improved attitude to physical activity.

In addition, the majority of parents felt their child is more active than when they started participating at junior parkrun. And 60% of parents (61,000) said they felt more part of their local community.

There is also a strong volunteering element to junior parkrun – and 31% of parents of volunteers said their child now makes friends more easily.

Looking back on the progress made over the three years, Rowan Ardill, Engagement Officer at parkrun said: “The growth of the programme was well over what we were hoping for.

“By promoting junior parkrun in a more targeted way we were able to raise awareness in other areas and other demographics. This was made possible as part of the partnership. We also developed a network of local volunteers who know their communities and are able to inspire people to join. We have never before had Outreach Ambassadors on such a large scale but now we have a growing network. Considering our team is just comprised of 20 people, this figure is amazing.”

He said the organisation is now able to take on a proactive approach to tackling areas of need, rather than a reactive one, adding: “This project helped us proactively identify areas that we can target to launch our events. It helped us take forward some key learnings and has really helped position us in a strong place to develop other participation projects.” 

He added: “From the start, we were committed to make these events last forever. Although the project was contained into three years, the impact is massive, and so are the learnings that we have taken.”

Natalie Fitzpatrick, Community, Health & Wellbeing Manager at Warburtons, added: “Families are really important to us and the project was about supporting families and helping every family feel part of their community. We are very proud of the achievements we made during the three years, but also the legacy that the programme will have. It’s very clear that those events will have continued impact in the future. The 101 events still exist and will continue to exist for the families and communities in those areas.”

She added: “There was a lot of support from CAF and the team was heavily involved in terms of validation processes and setting up the partnership in a successful way. CAF’s part was key to the whole thing. There were also governance elements that they helped with as well, so their role was integral in getting the foundations right for a successful collaboration.”

How it all started

In a bid to help more young people get active, Warburtons pledged to donate £300,000 over three years to help expand the reach of the junior parkrun programme, as part of the company’s community investment programme, Families Matter. 

The parkrun events seemed like a natural fit to help achieve that; already hosting events across the UK, they had the capacity to grow and host events for younger ages, driving child participation by making it regular, fun and habitual from a young age. 

Acting as mediator between the two partners, CAF’s team helped Warburtons seal the three-year partnership with parkrun in October 2015. 

The focus for the first 12 months was on growing the junior parkrun map across different socioeconomic locations, including disadvantaged areas. 

CAF’s main role was in setting impact targets for what both parties wanted to achieve through the partnership; from helping people be healthier and happier, to improving attitudes towards habitual exercise. By measuring these changes, the partnership was able to create a powerful evidence base and insights for new opportunities. The findings supported a future funding relationship with Sport England who invested £3m over three years to roll out the same approach in adult parkrun events to boost participation from under-represented groups.

There was a lot of support from CAF and the team was heavily involved in terms of validation processes and setting up the partnership in a successful way. CAF’s part was key to the whole thing.

Natalie Fitzpatrick, Community, Health & Wellbeing Manager Warburtons
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