Celebrity Promotion:Yoplait ups role in cancer battle with 'Champions' push

Six years ago, Yoplait, a company dedicated to serving women's health, launched its first Save Lids to Save Lives brand promotion to raise awareness for breast cancer.

Six years ago, Yoplait, a company dedicated to serving women's health, launched its first Save Lids to Save Lives brand promotion to raise awareness for breast cancer.

Starting each September, the annual program encourages consumers to collect the pink foil lids from Yoplait yogurt containers and send them back to the company by the end of December. For every lid returned, Yoplait donates 10 cents to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

By last year, Yoplait wanted to expand its breast cancer awareness program and establish itself as a unique leader among the hundreds of corporations that supported the cause. Although the Save Lids program successfully raised money in the past, Yoplait needed another campaign that would develop a more intimate relationship between the people behind the cause and the company.

With Cone's help, Yoplait created a new program to further the success of Save Lids, but that would primarily "put a human face on it," says Kim Olson, General Mills' PR director.

Strategy

Yoplait needed a "deeper bond with the consumer," says Scott Beaudoin, VP at Cone. To create a more personal relationship between the company and its consumers, Cone decided to scout out 25 "Yoplait Champions," who Beaudoin calls "ordinary people, male or female, doing extraordinary things in the fight against breast cancer."

Unlike past efforts that featured celebrity spokespeople, Olson says, Yoplait Champions allowed the company to get in touch with "real people" with whom consumers could better relate. The Yoplait Champions, chosen among a number of website applicants, would also serve as Yoplait's "brand evangelists" - people in the grassroots breast cancer arena who would support and promote the brand by word of mouth, Beaudoin says. The Yoplait Champions, Beaudoin explains, "are very connected locally with breast cancer survivors and other people in the breast cancer space."

Tactics

Cone developed a media partnership with Self magazine to secure credibility for the first-year program and to develop Yoplait's reputation as a dedicated supporter of the cause among its target audience - females ages 18 to 35.

Self's website provided readers with a link to the Yoplait site, where they could download an entry form for the Yoplait Champions contest, which ran from July through August. As incentive for people to enter, the PR team chose a Komen executive and the publisher of Self to serve as judges, among other prestigious people.

The 25 winners attended an award ceremony in late September as a kickoff for Breast Cancer Awareness month. At the ceremony, each champion received an award and a $1,000 donation to a nonprofit of their choice. In addition, Self released a two-page spread that recognized and honored the 25 winners of the Yoplait Champions contest.

Results

The Yoplait Champions campaign garnered 125 million media impressions, including a national placement on Today and in YM magazine.

The Yoplait champions program put the Yoplait brand at the top of shoppers' minds for the start of the 2003 Save Lids program, Olson says. Although Yoplait Champions did not directly promote the Save Lids program, she says, the initiative did contribute to the success of that year's effort. Last year, Yoplait redeemed 12 million lids - a 60% increase from the 7.5 million lids redeemed in 2002.

Future

Yoplait will not be repeating the Yoplait Champions program this year, says Beaudoin, adding, "It was never meant to be a yearly program." Cone, however, would enjoy doing a similar effort in the future, he says.

PR team: Cone (Boston) and Yoplait, a General Mills company (Minneapolis )

Campaign: Yoplait Champions

Time frame: January to December 2003

Budget: $490,000

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