In this post, we explore the ‘youth health’ sector and demonstrate how three companies are aligning themselves in different ways with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), a nonprofit organization founded in conjunction with Let’s Move!
In determining the best partnership strategy, a brand has to identify the best way it can support the movement by leveraging its assets and, at the same time, benefiting the brand’s business objectives. Below we examine how Disney, Birds Eye, and Walmart have partnered with Let’s Move! to achieve shared value objectives.
Disney and Let’s Move!
In June of this year, Disney announced its partnership with Let’s Move!. They are the first (and so far only) media brand that will introduce the new standard for food advertising targeted towards children, in direct collaboration with Let’s Move!. Michelle Obama will appear in PSA’s with Disney’s famous characters on the four Disney-owned TV channels and all their online destinations.
As opposed to a direct monetary donation or bringing in a third partner, Disney was smart enough to realize they could offer the movement real value through their animated characters and media placements. In doing so, Disney not only supports Michelle Obama by providing the initiative a platform that will be well received by this young demographic, but stands to reap the benefits of having their animated characters aligned with one of the most powerful brands in the country, Michelle Obama and the administration.
Leverage the Platform to Activate a Partnership
Birds Eye and Nickelodeon
PSAs are not the only way a media company can activate a partnership with Let’s Move!. PHA has brought together Birds Eye, the nation’s largest vegetable producer, and Nickelodeon, the second largest children’s TV channel (after Disney). This partnership guarantees a $6 million dollar investment from Birds Eye over the next three years in TV advertisement and promotional campaigns aimed to make children enjoy eating vegetables. Nickelodeon’s contribution is iCarly, an immensely popular character among the target audience.
Birds Eye and Nickelodeon’s efforts are aimed straight at the source: the children themselves. By investing in a platform that can make vegetables appear ‘cool’, Birds Eye is capitalizing on an opportunity to support a movement that will, in the long term, benefit their brand… and sales. If Let’s Move! is successful in moving the country towards healthy alternatives, such as vegetables, Bird’s Eye is positioned to be one of the primary financial benefactors. And, Nickelodeon, like Disney, views the platform as an opportunity to gain exposure for iCarly, the communication vehicle in this case, and in essence, offer a public stamp of approval on the show with the public support shown by Michelle Obama.
Aligning your communications with the movement is one approach, but there are others more oriented towards operational changes. Cue Walmart. Through a commitment with PHA, Walmart has pledged to contribute to the fight against childhood obesity by reformulating thousands of everyday packaged good items by reducing sodium and added sugars and removing all industrially produced trans fats. In addition, Walmart will make healthier choices more affordable and easier to recognize on the shelves. Unlike Disney or Bird’s Eye, Walmart is concentrating their partnership on product innovation. But why?
We believe Walmart takes this approach for three reasons:
1. If Let’s Move! is successful in pushing the country towards healthier alternatives, Walmart will be positioning their products for this change in national preference. From an innovation and sales perspective, this forecasting is strategic and has a very clear rationale.
2. It is not far-reaching to expect Let’s Move! to eventually be supported with legislation forcing retailers to offer more healthy choices. For Walmart, why not be proactive vs. reactive in leading the shift towards healthier alternatives vs. potentially being forced to reactively make these changes as a consequence of legislation.
3. For Walmart, and most other large companies, there are beaucoup bucks invested in lobbying the administration. As demonstrated by the previous point, one small piece of legislation (either positive or negative) could cause serious production consequences. Taking an opportunity like this to be a “good partner” to the administration is orth every cent to a company like Walmart, who has a very clear interest in being on the government’s good side.
The Value of Partnership
Still, the question remains why would a brand commit to the fight against childhood obesity versus other potential causes?
First and foremost: the entire nation is moving towards a more health conscious mindset. Obesity is not a trend. It is a movement and one that is only picking up steam. Sooner or later legislation and consumer behavior will create a higher demand for more health conscious products. From a business standpoint, aligning your brand and product innovation with clear trends in consumer behavior makes smart fiscal sense. Secondly, if the trend is coming, why not be a front runner in leading the movement versus a late adopter reactively responding to consumer needs or potential legislation?
And finally, there is a clear financial incentive for gaining good favor with the administration. With lobbying dollars being put towards this objective, from other budgets, why not be strategic and approach this objective through a platform that offers mutual benefit?