Charity Promotion: Buckner steps up PR, gives Shoes for Orphan Souls a lift

Five years after the launch of its Shoes for Orphan Souls program, Buckner Orphan Care International, one of the largest social services organizations in the nation, had started to witness considerable growth, but still lacked recognition outside of Texas, its home state. With shoe drives in every state reaching 700,000 children in more than 30 countries, Buckner needed more donations to support the increasing demand for assistance. Buckner and Lovell Public Relations devised Celebrity Shoes for Orphans, an online charity auction and traveling exhibit consisting of autographed shoes donated by entertainment and sports celebrities.

Five years after the launch of its Shoes for Orphan Souls program, Buckner Orphan Care International, one of the largest social services organizations in the nation, had started to witness considerable growth, but still lacked recognition outside of Texas, its home state. With shoe drives in every state reaching 700,000 children in more than 30 countries, Buckner needed more donations to support the increasing demand for assistance. Buckner and Lovell Public Relations devised Celebrity Shoes for Orphans, an online charity auction and traveling exhibit consisting of autographed shoes donated by entertainment and sports celebrities.

"We realized with Celebrity Shoes that we would be lending the names and credibility of many celebrities to the shoes," says Tiffany Taylor, director of Celebrity Shoes. "Celebrities would generate excitement and give us media exposure."

Strategy

Buckner sought to increase awareness of its various humanitarian services and to raise money for the needs of orphans overseas. To do so, after almost two years of extensive research, Lovell launched the campaign with more than 50 pairs of autographed shoes from A-list stars, such as Tom Hanks, Muhammad Ali, Christina Aguilera, and Pamela Anderson.

"It was a big challenge to choose the celebrities," says Betty Lovell, president of Lovell PR. "It was critical that we present Buckner with people who meet the objective of being a celebrity and being acceptable to the very conservative standards of the organization."

Lovell then enlisted the support of program sponsors eBay, the Hallmark Channel, which reaches more than 50 million viewers monthly, and Macerich Co., a California-based mall owner and operator that had been hosting shoe drives for Buckner since 1999. While eBay contributed more than 20 million impressions through charity links, direct e-mail marketing efforts, and online placements, Hallmark ran more than 300 national spots in the month before the auction, while also promoting the auction online. Macerich's malls in 20 states served as hosts to the traveling exhibit, and the company promoted the auction at more than 50 of its shopping centers.

"Sponsor visibility was a very important part of the campaign," says Jennifer Braga, former account manager of Lovell.

Tactics

Lovell created three traveling exhibits that toured malls throughout the country, showcasing the celebrity footwear. The exhibit tour was launched in Los Angeles and hosted by E! Entertainment Television fashion commentator Melissa Rivers. Launch events held at each location included shoe fashion shows, celebrity look-alike appearances, and drawings for shopping sprees. The exhibit wrap event was held at the New York Queens Center and was hosted by actress Kellie Martin.

Results

The auction raised more than $33,000, with a highest bid of $3,225 for basketball star Shaquille O'Neal's shoes. Celebrity Shoes generated TV coverage on more than 250 network affiliates and national outlets, reaching more than 11.2 million viewers. The campaign also received print coverage in Reuters, InStyle, the Chicago Tribune, and Newsday. Traffic on the Celebrity Shoes website increased 25 times, and Buckner witnessed a 33% growth in its donor database in the six-month period following the campaign. Buckner was also able to increase its orphan outreach by 200,000.

Future

The Celebrity Shoes for Orphans campaign will be held every two years. "We're continuing to meet with Lovell every month about the next Celebrity Shoes," says Taylor. "We are looking at new people to partner with and help us continue to strengthen the type of shoes that we get."

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PR team: Lovell Public Relations (Dallas) and Buckner Orphan Care International (Dallas)

Campaign: Celebrity Shoes for Orphans

Time frame: June to October 2003

Budget: $150,000

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