Caption: Nigel Marsh, the man behind the Sydney Skinny, was one of the 850 people who took part in the nude 900 metre ocean swim.

Former ad boss hopes event fundraising will grow after successful debut for Sydney Skinny. Greg Johnson reveals all … of the event’s successes, that is.

Over 850 people shed their clothing on Sunday and hit the water for a 900 metre swim, as part of Nigel Marsh’s Sydney Skinny event. The event’s aim is to not only become a Sydney institution but also raise funds towards the development of its host location, the Middle Head precinct of Sydney Harbour’s national park walkway project.

When Marsh spoke to F&P late last year about the event, he was clear that fundraising wasn’t the main priority in year one. The adman turned professional speaker managed to secure press coverage for the event, and in turn the national park, on Sunday morning breakfast television and prime space in The Sydney Morning Herald’s online and print publications.

“It’s beyond my wildest dreams, I just couldn’t be happier,” he said. “We had an 89-year-old bloke named Bruce doing it, four paraplegics, and a double amputee all taking part – it was just great.”

Marsh, the former boss of major advertising agency George Patterson Y&R, said the event has raised around $15,000 for the national park.

“I am thrilled about that, because that’s before you get to shinning a spotlight on a brilliant place and all of the unknown things that may result from that,” he said. “Funds were raised in three ways: we had the sponsors write a cheque directly to the national park, we suggested – you can’t force them, but we suggested it heavily through the website – for people to raise funds through the Everyday Hero website and we also bought a lot of sausages and buns for the park to sell on the day out of the event’s budget, which raised about $2,000.

“What we have therefore done is setup the three pillars and foundations to make more in future years,” he added.

Having gained such extensive media exposure for the event in year one, Marsh is hopeful that increased funding will be secured from corporate partners for next year’s event.

“Going around with a media pack in a few months time with all that coverage, I am hoping we will get some more, bigger corporate involvement for next year,” he explains. “Rather than me being an unknown bloke talking about a nude swim and it being a bit sleazy, which is what they might have thought six months ago because it hadn’t happened yet, they can see a tape of a smiling 61 year-old mum coming out of the water in a sarong talking about what a liberating experience it has been.

“Then they will want their brand to be on a swimming cap or other options like that,” he added.

The event has some rather appropriate sponsors for its first year, with juice manufacturer Nudie and sunscreen producer Ella Baché both offering their support.

It’s not the first time Marsh has been involved in creating a major event, having been one of the co-founders of WWF’s Earth Hour while the chief executive officer of ad agency Leo Burnett.

Greg Johnson is the editor of Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine.

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