With over 50,000 families in Ireland living with autism, those affected face barriers to inclusion because of the attitudes of people who may not have first-hand experience of autism. As Ireland’s largest retailer with stores in every community SuperValu is committed to building more inclusive and autism-friendly communities around Ireland. Autism Friendly Towns is SuperValu and AsIAm’s initiative which is working towards making communities around Ireland more inclusive. In October 2018, Clonakilty with the support of SuperValu, AsIAm and Middletown Centre for Autism achieved the remarkable and was designated as Ireland’s First Autism Friendly Town.
In 2019, SuperValu and AsIAm set out to expand this initiative and help communities around Ireland become autism-friendly. To support this SuperValu and FleishmanHillard created a media relations campaign that would raise awareness of not only Ireland’s first autism- friendly town, Clonakilty but also towns that were beginning their own journey to become autism friendly.
Our initial discussions with AsIAm and supported with our own research confirmed that there is a real lack of knowledge about autism across the general population and that information deficit was something we needed to address at the outset before we launched anything. It wasn’t enough to tell people what SuperValu were doing education about autism had to be front and centre to our messaging.
With AsIAm we conducted research with the autism community to gather data on their beliefs and attitudes to the public’s awareness of autism and how an autism friendly community could benefit them. This research was the backbone of the information for media materials for the national and regional launches.
Our outreach strategy was simple but effective. A national launch supported by a series of regional and local launches. Marking the anniversary of Clonakilty’s success would also provide another platform to promote the campaign and finally to drive our education objective we organised three local seminars in association with AsIAm with full media relations support.
This three-pronged approach achieved wide-spread coverage nationally and regionally across print, broadcast and online media. The initiative created a greater awareness, understating and acceptance of autism helping SuperValu achieve their goal of helping our communities become inclusive, accessible and enjoyable places for autistic people to live in. The campaign reached over 3 million people across print, broadcast, online and social media and 61% media share of voice in the autism space compared to all other retailers.