ALS Fundraising Takes the Plunge With Experiential Marketing

By: Kyley Murphy

Social Media marketing can prove to be either beneficial or extremely detrimental to a company’s brand image and what they stand for. One time social media proved to be extremely beneficial for a company was with the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge”. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a degenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. In laments terms, it is a disease that affects a person’s motor function that causes them to become paralyzed, and eventually leads to death. The ALS Association does not sell a product like most companies, but instead rely on charitable donations for their research in finding a cure for this disease.

Besides in the baseball community, with the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, or unless it affected someone you know, ALS is not a more well-known disease, like Cancer or Diabetes.  This all changed with this challenge.  When a Boston College athlete, Pete Frates, was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, his friends wanted to do something to help fundraise for the cause, so they came up with a unique way to do it.  How the “Ice Bucket Challenge” worked is that a person would get challenged by someone else to dump a bucket of ice water over their head.  Once they have done that, they would be encouraged to donate a certain amount of money, usually around $10, to the ALS cause, and then challenge other friends to do the same, while if you didn’t participate, you would have to donate $100.  This unconventional marketing technique became very profitable for the ALS Association.

There have been critics to this challenge, asking how such a challenge could help to cure a disease, but this was not the point of the challenge.  The article states that because of all this exposure, as of August 25, around $79.7 million was raised, where only $2.5 million was raised during the same period in 2013.  The article states that this challenge became extremely successful because of the simplicity of it.  Since people are always expressing themselves on their social medias, this was a way for the generation, known for their “selfies” to express themselves and show their support for this challenge in a fun way.  Also, having endorsement from famous celebrities, like superstars, athletes, singers, actors, radio hosts, and other influential people helped to promote this cause.  Some people might have been on the edge about doing the challenge, but if they saw their role model partake, then they would be more apt to participate.  I do not think it would have been as popular without these celebrities.

This article shows how a company cannot always predict every form of social media presence their company will have, but that outside participation can be positive.  The ALS Association has been working on a cure for ALS, but without sufficient funds it cannot be done thoroughly.  Through this “Ice Bucket Challenge”, the ALS Association gained a lot of recognition.  Through these individual videos going “viral”, the ALS Association gained the necessary exposure it needed to become more well-known and in in the end receive more donations.  The ALS Association even promoted the “Ice Bucket Challenge”, which helped to make the challenge more popular and created more donations.  Even though it would be hard to track how many people view each of the millions of videos, The ALS Association would be able to track this metric by the amount of time people visited their main website and how many people donated to the cause.

This challenge also enhanced their brand awareness, since in every video the creator would say what they were doing the cause for and where their new challengers could go to donate.  Sending potential donators to their website was important so the Association could thoroughly explain what the donations go toward and answer any potential questions a person might have.  This also caused positive brand awareness because people associated this challenge with participating in a good cause.  People were drawn to this cause because it was a way for an individual to actually help promote instead of just donating; or, if they only donated to the cause because of the social pressures, they could use the viral videos to promote themselves.

Out of this “Ice Bucket Challenge” I can really only see one potential downfall.  That is that it really only seemed like a fad that boosted initial donations, but it was not very sustainable.  Even though the major impact of this happened less than a year ago, it seems like it happened much farther in the past.  I would like to see if their donations from the same time period this year are more similar to that of the donations made two years ago rather than the donations made last year, so it might not make sense for the ALS Association to compare those donations to previous or future years.  The ALS Association would have to think of another way to retrieve donations, maybe by sponsoring a walk other societies do.



10 thoughts on “ALS Fundraising Takes the Plunge With Experiential Marketing

  1. Brendan Sullivan February 19, 2015 / 4:16 pm

    Great article and I completely agree with the fact that social media can be great or awful for your company. Whenever I went on Facebook over the summer there would always be someone doing the ALS ice bucket challenge posting the video and challenging friends. It was a great way to spread awerness and increase donations. This worked tremendously with morning talk shows having their hosts do it. The entire New England Patriots organization did it over the summer and challenge their three AFC East rivals. The numbers do not lie their donations sky rocketed over this time and I hope people continue to donate.


  2. Linsey Walker February 19, 2015 / 4:58 pm

    Hi Kyley,

    Great article! I think the piece you bring up about the boost in donations being short-lived and not sustainable is key. While any attention and donations a worthy foundation such as this one can get are great and should be celebrated, it would be even better to create a campaign that would allow for more consistent attention. I heard someone say once that that the best thing that can happen to a particular disease is that a celebrity gets it– people pay attention to celebrities, for whatever reason, and if you empathize and feel like you know someone with that disease, you’re more likely to give money and support research to help that person. Michael J Fox has done a lot for Parkinson’s and his celebrity has helped in that way. Of course, I am in no way wishing disease on people, but I think this could be a useful trend in thinking about the best ways to create awareness for worthy causes.


  3. Chris Lantagne February 19, 2015 / 6:45 pm

    ESPN had a little documentary about Pete Frates that I thought was moving. The main goal was to get people educated about ALS and get them familiar with the disease. The donations were great, but if a particular disease is known by all I have a hard time believing that donations would be hard to come by. I think the main focus should solely be on creating awareness. I like the concept of walks as you had said. I was also thinking that they should have a designated month during the year for ALS. October 2015 for example is breast cancer awareness and even now where it’s Black history month. It may be only for a month, but at least it’s recurring every year.The ice bucket challenge was sort of a “one hit wonder”.


  4. Amanda McKenzie February 20, 2015 / 12:39 am

    I think this was an awesome article! It’s truly amazing how important social media has become in today’s society. I remember when the ice bucket challenge first came out, I thought it was stupid and wouldn’t really help the cause. However, the use of social media absolutely blew this up and really dd help. The more and more people that participated, and the more celebrities that not only made a video of them getting ice water dumped on them but also donated a ton of money was really inspirational. I can’t believe that more and more people are becoming diagnosed with life threatening diseases like ALS, and things like the ice bucket challenge helped inform and raise awareness that these diseases are real.


  5. Sam Ventresca February 20, 2015 / 8:12 pm

    Great article! The ALS ice bucket challenge is a new innovative way of spreading awareness. A lot of times brand images are ruined by social media. Instead the ALS ice bucket challenge portrayed a positive image. People coming together to create awareness for the disease was something special.Everyday famous celebrities would be doing the challenge and getting the word out about ALS. The result was raising millions of dollars. The ALS ice bucket challenge was an awesome marketing idea.


  6. Skye Stewart February 22, 2015 / 5:17 pm

    I think the Ice Bucket Challenge was and is a great way to show that social media can really help any company out. I believe that companies have to get lucky on social media and they have to start and post the right kind of trends that will catch on to audiences all over the world. The Ice Bucket Challenge did just that. It was a creative way to create brand awareness as well as use social media as a way of advertising. I agree with you that it doesn’t seem to be so popular now, but it still brought awareness to the subject and taught a lot of people about the society. The celebrities doing the challenge is also a must, too. Without the celebrities doing it, I don’t think it would have caught on quite so much. Overall, it was a great way for awareness, advertising, and a creative way to participate in social media marketing.


  7. David Collins February 25, 2015 / 12:19 am

    I agree with a couple of the above comments about sustainability. It’s great to capitalize and let the fad ride while you can, but will it last? The first thing that comes to my mind is the Smirnoff Ice campaign that encouraged people to “Ice” their friends. This entailed getting your friend to touch a Smirnoff Ice bottle without them knowing. If they did so, they had to take a knee and chug the bottle. For awhile, it was going really well. I even got “Iced” in my Christmas stocking. However, once the fad went away, so did Smirnoff Ice, again. While it’s important to capitalize on fads, it’s even more important to always be thinking “what can we do next?”


  8. Domenica Fuller April 10, 2015 / 10:27 pm

    I agree that this was a great article about the power of social media. It is such a great cause that I hope it can sustain it’s revenue. The organization could promote the Ice Bucket Challenge every summer and maybe adding in a different feature each year. A lot of the advertising for other charities shows us people suffering from the disease and give first hand accounts; the foundation could have the Challenge start every year with something suffering from the disease. Doing it on a yearly basis could make it a special event that people could look forward to similar to Relay for Life’s being done once a year.


  9. keelyn crowe April 28, 2015 / 12:43 am

    I think the Ice Bucket Challenge was such a great and creative way to spread awareness and increase donations for ALS. I remember watching them all over Facebook and Instagram not thinking that they would even make a lot of money since I thought people were just doing the videos for the fun of it. In one of my classes last semester though, someone said that they were able to raise over 100 million by now (as you said 79.7 being by August). i think this was an awesome way to spread awareness and hopefully will encourage other associations/charities to do so as well!


  10. Josh Peterson May 4, 2015 / 10:42 pm

    Although I did not pay much attention to the ice bucket challenge the issue of sustainability was clear fairly early on from what I saw. Many people I knew that participated had no idea what they were actually doing. To them it was just something people were doing. This dilutes the message that was trying to be spread. Obviously there was a clear impact but the ALS Association would need to take control of the idea and make it more universal.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s