How Challenger Brand Thinking (And Ice Water) Raised Millions For ALS

August 14, 2014 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

You’re a disease. A brutal, heart-breaking, mysterious disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). You’re not heart disease. You’re not cancer. You don’t have a Race for Life, or a Pink Ribbon campaign to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and to date, your greatest notoriety comes from the fact one of your earliest victims was one of the greatest baseball players to ever live and people dubbed you “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” You need tens of millions of dollars in research funding to help find a cure and this time last year, you raised $25,000. How do you change all that and shock the system? Turns out it just requires some challenger thinking and a big bucket of ice water.

Last month, on July 29, a former Boston College athlete named Pete Frates, launched a Facebook and Twitter campaign called the “Ice Bucket Challenge” challenging his friends and family to help raise awareness and donations for ALS. The challenge – dump a big bucket of ice water over your head, post the video to social media and then challenge others to do the same. If you refuse, you are asked to make a donation to the ALS charity of your choice and pass on the challenge.

What started small has become white hot viral in the past two weeks and as of today, the challenge is approaching $3 million raised for ALS research. Professional athletes and whole sports teams are taking the challenge. Companies, churches and civic groups are taking the challenge. Once kids return to school next week, you can be sure there will be plenty of school videos making the rounds. It’s the perfect viral idea – it’s fun, it’s simple, it’s competitive and it’s helpful. LOOMIS took the challenge this afternoon!

LOOMIS Imagibrand Process

In a way, the Ice Bucket Challenge reminds me of another classic example of challenger brand thinking called The Tap Project that coincidentally, also involved water. In 2007, New York ad agency Droga5 partnered with Unicef to raise awareness of the global water crisis. To raise money, on one given day, the agency asked New Yorkers to pay $1 for a glass of water they normally would have gotten for free. In turn, that $1 provided 40 days of clean drinking water to a child in need. The first year, the project raised more than $100,000 in New York alone.

Last year, Droga5 expanded the campaign to Facebook with the wonderful idea of having people send water to each other. You would “receive water” from a friend, and then, by making a small donation to The Tap Project, you could “open” your waterway sending water to two other friends. To date, The Tap Project has raised more than $2.5 million and has provided more than 30 million days worth of clean drinking water.

We talk a lot about how challenger brand thinking can transform companies and brands, but in some ways, it’s even more rewarding to see it do the same for charitable and philanthropic efforts. Pete Frates was diagnosed with ALS in 2012 and started the “Ice Bucket Challenge” to raise awareness among his family and friends. Little did he know that network extended to millions of people across the country. Today, I’m sure The ALS Association considers themselves “one of the luckiest organizations on the face of the earth.” And while that may be true, there is still much to do.

Help us help ALS by liking and sharing the LOOMIS “Ice Bucket Challenge” on Facebook and by taking the challenge in your own organization. LOOMIS is pledging to donate $1 to ALS for every LIKE we get for our video on Facebook, or VIEWS on YouTube up to $1,000.

Watch LOOMIS take the Ice Bucket Challenge here!

Michael Tuggle is Chief Imagination Officer at The Loomis Agency, the country’s leading Challenger Brand Advertising Agency

Read more about the “Ice Bucket Challenge:”

ALS Water Bucket Challenge Invades The Sporting World

8 Game-Changing Marketing Lessons From The ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge”

Here’s Why People Are Dumping Ice On Themselves And Posting Videos Of It

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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