National Citizen Service kicks off £10m creative contest

Government-backed youth charity wants to increase cut-through.

National Citizen Service kicks off £10m creative contest

The National Citizen Service Trust has put out a brief worth up to £10m calling for a creative agency to revamp its brand and work on its campaigns.

NCST – a not-for-profit organisation incorporated by Royal Charter, which is similar in governance to the BBC – is initially offering a two-year contract with the National Citizen Service.

The winning shop will initially deliver a brand identity project for the NCS and will then work as lead creative partner on a campaign basis for the duration of the two-year contract, with the option to extend it for two further 12-month periods.

The organisation, which was established in 2011 by then prime minister David Cameron, is aimed at encouraging social cohesion, mobility and engagement among young adults.

However, the NCS has been dogged by claims that it is undersubscribed. The Local Government Association claimed in July last year that only 93,000 young people took part in NCS schemes in 2016 – just 12% of those eligible.

This was despite the scheme receiving more than £630m of government funds between 2014 and 2017, while local authority funding for local youth services fell by 40% between 2010 and 2016, the LGA said.

In the same month, specialist think tank NPC told Campaign's sister title Third Sector that the government should consider scrapping the organisation and redirecting its funds to other youth organisations if they proved more effective.

The new creative services contract, which is valued at between £4m and £10m plus VAT, made reference to the difficulties the NCS has faced in reaching young people and the wider public since its inception.

The contract stated: "NCS is ambitious to grow and inspire more young people to participate in the programme.

"While greater control of the network to deliver recruitment and sign-ups via recommissioning, media efficiencies and digital acceleration will ensure incremental gains, awareness of and perception of the NCS brand is a major blocker among young people, parents and guardians and the wider general public."

It calls for an agency to help the organisation deliver "a razor-sharp brand proposition, a brand identity that is fit for purpose in the digital age and a creative platform that can not only cut through the clutter but live and breathe through every single touchpoint… to make NCS the best-known and loved youth movement brand in the UK."

The contract document warns that procurement is being carried out on an "accelerated time schedule", with the successful agency required to produce creative materials by the autumn to match the "core recruitment window" for students to sign up to the scheme.

In order to meet this deadline, final creative materials will need to be distributed to NCS partners by July.

The document stated: "The scale and complexity of the project requires the winning agency to have at least two months to carry out the necessary research, strategy development and creative development."

A version of this story first appeared on PRWeek