It’s no secret that a substantial chunk of Americans are having issues with their weight, and it’s a problem that starts young. Recent CDC studies have found that 15% of kids ages six to 19 are overweight, and less than 25% are getting in 30 minutes of exercise a day. Nickelodeon has decided to do something about it with a multi-year, national campaign called ‘Let’s Just Play’ involving all its media tentacles and grassroots social org relationships.
‘We really believe that what’s good for kids is good for business,’ says Nick executive VP of public affairs Marva Smalls. ‘Our commitment to kids extends beyond just entertaining them. We ask the question: ‘What do we leave them with when the TV is turned off?”
Promoting health, sportsmanship and teamwork, the initiative kicked off in July with a series of text-based teaser spots that simply asked kids if they had played that day. The second wave of spots, which started airing August 9 and will run through October, features real kids and celebrities (like skateboard legend Tony Hawk) talking about how they play. Nick has posted play tips on its website encouraging kid feedback, and summer and fall issues of Nickelodeon magazine feature tear-out inserts highlighting various games and activities.
The media push is designed to drive kids to participate in a series of ‘Play Across America’ community events that Nick and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America are running in five U.S. cities. The first was held mid-July in Spokane, Washington, attracting 3,000 kids who took part in 51 different outdoor activities like sack races and rock-wall climbing. The initiative will travel to Atlanta, Kansas City and Hartford before ending in a televised event in L.A. on October 4.
Nick is putting its money where its mouth is on this project, with a US$28-million commitment this year and ‘Let’s Just Play’ messaging taking up 10% of the net’s valuable non-programming air-time.
Smalls says next year’s gameplan will involve the same kind of financial commitment and more grassroots play events. ‘We all recognize that be it for anti-violence or be it for better health, the earlier you get to kids, the more they’ll adopt new behavior. If we move the needle on 25% of kids who are doing nothing right now, we’d be happy with that accomplishment.’
Nick’s nine-year-old volunteerism effort The Big Help has demonstrated that calling on kids to make a difference can have an effect. At the peak of the campaign, more than nine million kids pledged 400 million hours of volunteer time during an eight-hour telethon. That kid power was used to build playgrounds, clean up graffiti, walk dogs and even build a safe, circular park for Alzheimer’s patients. The initiative seemed to especially strike home with the six to 12 crowd, as well as attracting the participation of 30 national organizations, including the Girl and Boy Scouts and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.