New partnership bolsters American Express' CSR 'Members Project'

NEW YORK: American Express brought back its online philanthropic initiative "Members Project," with a bigger PR push than in previous years and a new partnership with community Web site TakePart.

NEW YORK: American Express brought back its online philanthropic initiative "Members Project," with a bigger PR push than in previous years and a new partnership with community Web site TakePart.

The program launched in 2007 and returned in 2008, but Sarah Meron, director of corporate affairs and communications for American Express, said it was not renewed last year because the company “scaled back its investment spending in marketing overall.”

This year's initiative includes a new, multiyear partnership with TakePart, which is focused on social activism and owned by Participant Media, the producer of socially-minded documentaries The Cove and An Inconvenient Truth. American Express and Participant Media are driving consumers to its Web site, where visitors can support charitable causes in a number of ways, whether or not they are an American Express card member.

Meron said American Express brought back the program in part because internal research showed card members place a lot of importance on giving back.  Members contributed nearly $100 million and more than 87 million credit card loyalty rewards points to relief organizations in Haiti, she added.

“This is a huge proof point for us about how important giving back is to our card members,” Meron told PRWeek. “The program has broadened from previous iterations, and now offers a variety of ways to get involved.”

Visitors to the site can cast a weekly vote for a charity to receive $200,000 in funding from American Express. Another option helps visitors find volunteer opportunities, and possibly earn reward points for those volunteer hours. Non-members can donate rewards points to charity and American Express card members can also make donations.

“Social media also plays a huge role in the program,” Meron added. On the Members Project Web site, there are tools that help participants display their favorite charities using their social networks, e-mail, and interactive widgets. American Express is also promoting the initiative through its own Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts.

The multimedia campaign includes PR outreach, supported by PMK-BNC, the sports and sponsorship PR AOR for American Express, and The Glover Park Group, which was hired by TakePart.com for PR around the Members Project effort.*

The PR firms plan to pitch national media with Members Project spokesmen Geoffrey Canada, the founder of community-based organization Harlem Children's Zone, and Yvon Chouinard, the founder of eco-conscious retailer Patagonia. Canada and Chouinard are also featured online and in national TV ads for the campaign, which debuted during the Academy Awards on March 7, 2010.

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article mistakenly identified The Glover Park Group as the PR AOR for Participant Media. In fact, it was hired by TakePart, not parent company Participant Media, to work on this project. We regret the error.

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