CAMPAIGNS: Recycling PR - Heavy hitter wins program support

Client: The Aluminum Association (Washington)

PR Team: Hill & Knowlton (Washington)

Campaign: 'Make Every Can Count'

Time Frame: January 2000 to present

Budget: dollars 500,000

Early last year, The Aluminum Association and Habitat for Humanity

decided they wanted better visibility for their 'Aluminum Cans Build

Habitat for Humanity Homes' program. Founded in 1997, the program uses

the proceeds from the recycling of aluminum cans to build homes for the


Hill & Knowlton, which represents The Aluminum Association, proposed

enlisting baseball superstar Sammy Sosa to promote the program through a

PSA. Having received the go-ahead from Habitat, the campaign was

preparing to launch when its success was threatened.


The strategy called for recruiting a respected celebrity with

cross-cultural appeal who would volunteer services as a spokesperson.

Sammy Sosa fit the bill. The Chicago Cubs slugger agreed, provided that

Habitat help construct new homes in his native Dominican Republic, which

had been hit by a hurricane a few years ago.

Filming took place just before spring training started. TV and radio

PSAs in English and Spanish played up Sosa's status as a star player and

emphasized that recycling could help families obtain affordable


An April 2000 Fortune article challenged the financial dealings of the

Sammy Sosa Charitable Foundation, which caused some unanticipated

concern among H&K strategists. With Sosa's reputation in question, the

campaign's success became more uncertain. So an additional dollars

50,000 was budgeted to probe public attitudes about Sosa.


Research found that most people lacked awareness of the allegations and

still held positive views toward Sosa. The baseball star's managers

insisted corrective action was taken in regard to the foundation's

management, and Habitat was willing to proceed on the condition that no

negative stories came out during the summer.

Then came rumblings that Sosa might be traded. If that happened, a

substantial percentage of the PSA footage showing Sosa as a Cub would

have to be redone. But the trade deadline passed, and Sosa stayed in


PSAs were mailed just before Labor Day and Habitat affiliates received

kits demonstrating how to incorporate the recycling program into their

activities. A two-page advertisement promoting the program appeared in

USA Today.


Sosa's star power paid off. As of March 31, PSA airings on radio and TV

represented an ad equivalency of dollars 6.3 million.

In addition, the number of Habitat affiliates participating in the

recycling program grew by 100 when compared to 1999, and can recycling

by these groups increased 25% during the same period. The number of

weekly calls to the program's toll-free information line increased 400%

since before the PSA release.


The Aluminum Association, Habitat and H&K are hopeful Sosa's PSA will

receive more airtime now that baseball season is approaching again.

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