Portugal shouts above its weight for the Ocean

29 March 2019, By Canela

At Canela PR we are lucky enough to participate in communication campaigns that go beyond promoting a specific brand, product or service but also ones that can help improve the world we live in. This is the case of the Voice for the Ocean initiative that we managed in Portugal and that exceeded all expectations regarding media participation and brand awareness.


The Challenge: to raise awareness and to encourage the whole country to participate

Voice for the Ocean is a European citizen’s consultation organised by Surfrider Foundation, an international NGO dedicated to the protection of the seas, oceans and beaches.

The aim of the initiative was to gather the opinions of European citizens on problems such as water pollution, maritime transport, urban development and the impact of tourism in coastal areas. Based on the results, Surfrider Foundation put pressure on the political parties that attend the European elections to include measures to protect the seas in their programs.

From previous experiences, Surfrider Foundation knows that the participation in this type of initiatives is usually high in the countries of Northern Europe, and it decreases significantly in the countries in Southern Europe, where there is less tradition in this type of initiatives. They were particularly concerned about the impact on Portugal, a relatively small country in population (only 10 million inhabitants) whose voce may not be heard unless more awareness about the consultation was created.

The campaign: a global initiative with a local focus

Surfrider Foundation contacted Canela PR just four months before the consultation to see if we could help them in the promotion of the Voice for the Ocean campaign. Being an NGO that is financed with the contributions of its members, they had a limited budget with which to reach the maximum number of citizens and media.

We set to work immediately to find an effective campaign approach. We soon realized that Portugal, with 2,150 kilometres of Atlantic coastline and famous for its great waves, was a world-renowned paradise for surfers. We also saw that, although it was a European level consultation, it was important to give it a local approach, to make the Portuguese aware of the benefits of protecting the coastline.

So we organised a PR campaign focused on raising awareness among the Portuguese population about the need to protect the seas, publicise the consultation and encourage participation. The campaign combined several actions:

1. A popular day of beach cleaning to raise public awareness.

2. Participation of the well-known surfers Tiago Pires “Saca” and Hugo Vau.

3. Submission of written and multimedia materials of the campaign to Portuguese media.

4. Interview management, reports and media coverage.

5. Support research for the campaign from local entities such as APAI and Nova SBE.


The crowning moment came at the celebration of the Voice for the Ocean Tour event, which took place on November 9 and 10 in Oporto after touring Bruges, Paris, Brussels and Malaga. During these days we discussed some issues relating to the problems of pollution and climate change that affect the Portuguese coasts. The event received the co-operation of environmental experts, surfers and members of the European Parliament.

The results: great media coverage and high participation


During the project, we achieved more than 30 media impacts including 3 pieces of coverage in morning TV shows and magazines (national and cable channels) and 2 radio interviews, in addition to coverage in national and regional media of Portugal. The campaign reached a total estimated audience of 750,000 people. You can see a summary in the following video:

Without a doubt, the most important result was that, thanks to all messages spread during the campaign, Portugal surpassed expectations being the 2nd country in Europe, after France, with the highest response rate in the consultation. In total, 5% of responses at European level came from Portugal, which represents 1.3% of the population of the continent. The results far exceeded the expectations that the Surfrider Foundation had regarding the campaign in Portugal. “Canela’s creativity, media know-how and agility were instrumental in making our European Consultation response rate a huge success in Portugal. We literally couldn’t have done it without them” Lucile Arbeille, Communications Manager at Surfrider Foundation.

On our side, we have the satisfaction of a job well done, a challenge that tested all our creativity and a fantastic achievement for Canela Portugal. And we are also proud to have contributed to an initiative which means we can all enjoy cleaner beaches and seas.

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