NEW YORK: As one of the few celebrities whose every move sparks a torrent of media interest, P. Diddy is a permanent fixture in the spotlight.
Last week's announcement that the music and fashion mogul will run in the New York City Marathon to raise money for a host of his philanthropic interests, including the city's public schools, was no exception to this. The move earns him PR Play of the Week, but not because of the attention he got, which is akin to a raindrop in an ocean. Instead, he gets the laurel because the move draws attention to the crucial issue of school funding, which has also been taken up by Bill Gates and AOL in recent weeks, and marks a departure from the until-now antagonistic approach P. Diddy had taken on the issue.
Last year, P. Diddy, along with Russell Simmons' Hip-Hop Action Network, held a rally outside City Hall to protest education budget cuts. But recently, he met with top aides to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and schools chancellor Joel Klein, which presumably led to his recent announcement. Diddy's participation in the November marathon is guaranteed to earn at least $1 million, according to published reports, from corporate sponsors including Nike, McDonald's, and Foot Locker. Portions of the money will go to other causes, such as his own child-mentoring organizations and a foundation for children with AIDS. Diddy's commitment to kids is especially important given the frequent allegations that hip-hop contributes to violence.
His interest follows a $1 million commitment from AOL, which included a much-hyped free Dave Matthews Band concert in Central Park, and a more than $50 million gift from Gates, the Microsoft founder. All of these efforts have won positive press for the donors and marked a constructive way to deal with a hot-button issue as the city struggles with its financial woes. In addition to all of this, the marathon offers Diddy the chance to showcase his competitive side - as if that were ever in doubt.