Setting up a lemonade stand has long been a rite of passage - and summer - for children in the US.
And though selling lemonade is touted as a perfect introduction for kids to entrepreneurship, those 8-year-olds have also become the country's youngest philanthropists, with many donating their profits to charity.
With its "Take a Stand" campaign, Sunkist Growers, one of the nation's largest suppliers of lemons and other fresh fruit, sought to help kids set up successful stands to benefit charities like cancer research foundations and soup kitchens, all while promoting the Sunkist brand.
Following Hurricane Katrina, Sunkist and PR agency MS&L even extended the program so that children could take part in raising money for relief efforts.
"Kids see the news reports, too, and they want to know how they can help," says Vicki Fite, deputy MD at MS&L and leader of the Sunkist campaign.
After a successful 500-stand pilot program in 2004, client and agency decided to up the ante this year by offering 2,000 stands and making a considerable push to raise awareness. Sunkist and MS&L particularly wanted to target mothers, the primary shoppers for most families, and retailers, hoping to reinforce Sunkist as a trusted name in the fresh-fruit market. They knew the charity-focused push would also be attractive to the press.
"If you watch general media, more articles are being written about good stories about kids," says Robert Verloop, VP of marketing at Sunkist. "And what I think this tapped into is that kids inherently want to do things that are right. They like doing things for other people, and the media likes covering that."
The program was pre-promoted in parenting magazines and in the kids pages of local newspapers. MS&L sent out press kits that included a release and a Sunkist-branded juicer, and followed up with wire releases.
Take a Stand was also teased on the company's website for a month before the launch. When the online sign-up went live, children, with the help of their parents, were asked to write a short pledge as to which charity they wanted to donate to. In turn, they received a Sunkist-branded lemonade stand, juicer, lemon peeler, and how-to brochures and recipe booklets. They could also download signs and selling tips off the website.
When the stands began popping up around the US, MS&L worked to connect participants with retailers.
"We reached out to some key clients and said, 'We have a child in your area whom we would like to highlight in the media as being an especially good case for fundraising for charity. Would you mind if we had the child do this in front of your store?'" Verloop explains. "Retailers jumped at that opportunity."
Within 36 hours of the stands' availability, more than 2,000 children signed up on Sunkist's website. Though exact amounts were unavailable, officials estimate that each stand raised an average of $200, with Sunkist matching donations for some, bringing the total raised so far to around $400,000.
The effort attracted attention from national and local media, with Parenting, Family Circle, The New York Times, and others promoting and praising the event. In addition, many small-town papers and TV affiliates covered individual stands.
About a dozen retailers - more than triple the expected total - got behind the program, allowing kids to set up stands outside their stores and even donating supplies and ingredients.
As the program continues in support of hurricane relief, with an additional 2,000 stands, client and agency are gearing up to expand it next year. Verloop says that Sunkist hopes to build a nonprofit foundation around the program, complete with a national spokesperson.
PR team: Sunkist Growers (Sherman Oaks, CA) and MS&L (Los Angeles)
Campaign: Sunkist Take a Stand Lemonade Program
Time frame: May to September 2005