The Aluminum Cans Build Habitat for Humanity Homes program (ACBHHH) is a cause-related marketing program sponsored by the aluminum industry in partnership with Habitat for Humanity International where money earned from recycling aluminum cans goes directly to Habitat affiliates nationwide. By the latter part of 1999 the two-year campaign had reached a plateau. Attracting new affiliates was becoming increasingly difficult and existing supporters were frustrated the campaign was not on the national radar screen. Without greater national awareness of ACBHHH, and new marketing tools to compel supporters to promote recycling cans for Habitat, The Aluminum Association feared the campaign would lose momentum in 2000. Hill & Knowlton was challenged to develop a cost effective communications tool to meet these goals:
  • Re-energize Habitat affiliates’ participating in ACBHHH and recruit additional affiliates.
  • Arm the 220+ participating Habitat affiliates with a powerful, localized media tool to actively promote ACBHHH within their communities.
  • Raise national awareness of the ACBHHH program.
Opportunities — By early 2000, there were 220 ACBHHH affiliates participating in the campaign. Many had proven expertise to successfully publicize their recycling activities.
H&K seized upon these shining examples of the program’s success and tapped them as champions for our campaign to reinvigorate ACBHHH in 2000.
In addition, these champions would be called upon to assist H&K in exciting lesser involved affiliates to increase their recycling and promotion efforts.
Challenges — What is the communications tool that will reinvigorate ACBHHH and serve as a “magic wand” for generating national awareness in short order in 2000?
H&K had to determine and justify the most cost-effective vehicle. Following research on the power of the PSA, we recommended a TV and radio PSA.
A second challenge emerged following the selection of homerun slugger Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs as our celebrity endorser of the campaign and star of the PSA. While we were editing the PSA, Sosa suddenly came under fire for alleged misuse of his own charitable foundation funds and also became embroiled in trade rumors mid-way through the season, hampering plans of releasing a PSA featuring him in his current team’s uniform.
PSA Research — After analyzing past successful national PSA campaigns, we determined a radio and TV PSA would be the most cost-effective tool to achieve our objectives in 2000. A PSA would involve a minimal financial investment (budget: $500,000) versus paid advertising, and would provide multiple relationship- building and promotional uses for participating affiliates.
Selecting Sosa — In searching for the ideal national figure to carry the ACBHHH message, we established criteria for a spokesperson: a person with a personal stake in (or could speak credibly about) the crisis of substandard housing; who could speak to a wide variety of audiences, in different languages (English/Spanish); who had national name recognition; and who would be willing to donate their services. Among a long list of potential candidates, H&K’s Sport Marketing Division zeroed in on Sammy Sosa, a national sports icon, who in 1999 was riding high from his best season ever. We learned Sosa grew up in poverty in the Dominican Republic and considered the issue of adequate housing to be very important. He valued Habitat’s work and would not require any monetary compensation for his participation.
Sosa Image Crisis — When Sosa’s foundation was under fire, H&K secured Peter Hart Research to survey the public and gauge public opinion to ensure the negative press was not adversely impacting Sosa’s image. The majority of the 800 respondents had  favorable perceptions of Sosa, professionally and personally, and were unaware of the foundation allegations.
Affiliate Survey — H&K spoke with dozens of ACBHHH affiliates on their program needs and to gauge their opinion of Sosa as a potential spokesperson. Interviews confirmed they had longed to have a first rate PSA for years, embraced Sosa as a superb advocate of the program, and were eager to assist H&K in promoting usage of the PSA to within their markets.
The Sosa PSA was produced from Feb.–May 2000, and we set Sept. 2000 as the target date for the PSA campaign launch, followed by a blitz of outreach to affiliates and media. In light of the negative press surrounding Sosa’s foundation, H&K was extremely careful not to jeopardize Habitat’s image, or the relationship with the aluminum industry. H&K conducted media monitoring and public opinion research and realized there would be no negative fallout. Habitat approved the release of the Sosa PSA providing no negative stories ran during the summer months. Our launch date of Labor Day week remained in tact. We estimated a six-month run cycle for the PSA.
Our original budget quote of $450K increased additional $50K year due to the unexpected need to develop a crisis response plan, conduct a national survey, and travel to Habitat International to secure final approval of Sosa as the campaign spokesperson.
Our measurable objectives for the PSA included:
  • Increase the number of ACBHHH affiliates by 100 by year-end.
  • Motivate a minimum of 25% of ACBHHH affiliates to use the PSA in promotional efforts in their markets.
  • Increase the number of cans recycled by ACBHHH affiliates over that of 1999.
  • Double the number of telephone calls to the ACBHHH toll-free number.
  • Generate use of the radio and TV PSA in 35 of the top 50 markets and receive an ad equivalency of PSA pick-up equal to four times PSA production and distribution cost (approx. $2 million.)
H&K blended research, public relations and community outreach to create a powerful campaign to recruit and motivate volunteers and inspire those who are not recycling to do so, for Habitat.  Two primary vendors were used in production and distribution of the PSA: GVI Productions produced the PSA and WestGlen Communications created the packaging and distributed it.
Campaign Execution — H&K developed a comprehensive launch and promotion plan surrounding the PSA to ensure maximum impact:
Strategy 1:Create an eye-catching, multilingual PSA package to enhance pick-up among news directors.
The PSA was produced for radio and TV in both English and Spanish, with versions in :30 and :60 seconds. Options were made available to TV and radio outlets to localize the announcements with information from local affiliates.
Press kits featured Sosa holding an aluminum can and included a baseball card highlighting key facts about ACBHHH, a publicity shot and biography on Sosa, and additional press materials. A  Beta tape and CD were contained in a colorful package containing promotional copy of the campaign and our slogan “Make Every Can Count!”
Strategy 2: Strategically time the launch of the campaign for maximum exposure and relevance to aluminum soda cans, Habitat and baseball.
The media launch was timed to coincide with Labor Day weekend (the ‘unofficial’ end of summer.) This time of year more cans of soda are consumed than any other time, leaving consumers with lots of empty cans for recycling. Timing also coincided with post-season play in baseball, bringing Sosa’s public endorsement to the forefront.
The distribution of PSA materials to Habitat affiliates was timed to coincide with Habitat’s largest annual affiliate gathering — The Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP) — held September 8-15, and bringing 1,200 volunteers and Habitat affiliates from around the globe to one site for a weeklong house building blitz.
Strategy 3:Generate a jolt of media coverage about ACBHHH/Sosa PSA campaign to drive usage of the spot and consumer awareness.
H&K worked with AdWorks, the client’s advertising agency, to create two national print ads announcing the PSA and Sosa’s involvement: 1) A full-page advertisement in Electronic Media to announce the availability of the PSA nationwide to news directors. 2) A two-page advertorial in USA Today on Sept. 15th to build momentum for the PSA. The advertorial described the ACBHHH program in a mock news page format and encouraged consumers to call the national ACBHHH hotline to request specific local information. The advertorial hit the newsstands on the final day of the JCWP and copies were distributed to volunteers on site and mailed to all affiliates and Habitat regional offices.
A media tool-kit was also sent to all ACBHHH affiliates informing them of the PSA, demonstrating ways to successfully implement the campaign and position the program in their communities. Affiliates were encouraged to localize the PSA and were given tips on how to motivate their media outlets to care about the program and air the PSA.
News directors were personally contacted. Media outreach was conducted in English and Spanish. Local/national sportscasters in the top 25 markets were pitched the Sosa story.
Strategy 4:Sustain the momentum of the campaign post-launch by leveraging our ACBHHH affiliate champions.
An ACBHHH exhibit showcased ACBHHH and the PSA campaign at national, regional, and local Habitat affiliate and aluminum industry meetings.
All new affiliates in 2000 received the PSA, along with information on how to use it to launch their recycling program.
ACBHHH affiliates signed on as of Dec. 2000 = 350 - an increase of over 100 affiliates from Dec 1999.
1/3 of ACBHHH affiliates reported using the PSA in local publicity from Sept.  2000 – Feb. 1, 2001.
In 2000 ACBHHH affiliates recycled 200,000 lbs. of aluminum cans — vs. 150,000 lbs. in 1999.
Calls to the toll-free ACBHHH hotline increased from six calls per week to 25-100 calls per week post-launch.-a  400-1,000 % increase from pre-launch.
PSA coverage in just five months (Sept. 15. 2000 – Feb. 15, 2001) was astounding.
  • TV:  13,169 airings (534 million+ impressions)
  • Radio: 23,571airings (46 million+ impressions)
  • Ad equivalency of $5.6 million.
Coverage achieved in 41 of the top 50 markets.