BVD to help Big Brothers Big Sisters increase volunteer numbers, donations

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Underwear and T-shirt manufacturer BVD is teaming up with nonprofit organization Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) in a national direct marketing campaign. The aim is to double the number of Big Brother and Big Sister mentors, raise the awareness of the need for more of them and increase financial contributions.


Leslie Gillock, the vice president of marketing for BVD, Bowling Green, KY, a brand of Fruit of the Loom, described the relationship as a comprehensive marketing partnership.


"This is more than us just writing a check for them and that being the extent of the work we are doing together," she said. "There is a commitment on our part to share our resources with them to help better the lives of children throughout the country. We want to help them advance their message."


The goal of the campaign is to increase the number of mentoring relationships to 200,000 by 2000. There are 130,000 volunteer Big Brothers and Big Sisters across the country. The 90-year-old BBBSA, Philadelphia, has 500 agencies nationwide, each with children awaiting a mentor.


The campaign, which is entitled "BVD Fit For Mentors," will reach people via on-package marketing of BVD products, national magazine advertisements and the Internet.


"The unique thing about the BVD Fit For Mentors campaign is the extensive advertising component," said Viola W. Bostic, assistant national executive director for marketing and communications at BBBSA. "The national exposure via the full-page-image ads in the publications is an enormous benefit to BBBSA. These ads will help create name recognition for BBBSA and hopefully recruit volunteer Bigs that are the backbone of our organization. As with any other partnership we take part in, we want to market the BBBSA brand of mentoring and provide a caring adult role model for every child that needs one."


Bostic added that the number of BBBSA volunteers increases annually.


Starting within the next two months, the piece of cardboard, or foldboard, wrapped around BVD briefs, T-shirts and V-necks inside their packaging will become an information sheet letting people know how they can become a volunteer Big Brother or Big Sister or send donations. There will be 15 million of these foldboards inserted into BVD packages throughout the country.


The foldboard also will provide consumers with the addresses of the BVD and BBBSA Web sites, where they can learn more about the volunteer initiative. There will be a telephone number on the foldboard for those interested in helping out with special events, providing a career day for children in their local community or being a sponsor at fundraising events.


Gillock said the relationship between the two should work well as the profile of the typical BVD consumer is almost identical to that of a BBBSA volunteer.


"Our customers and their volunteers tend to be young people between the ages of 18 and 35 years old," she said. "There is a clear synergy between the two. If not young males, then usually younger females who buy these things for their boyfriends or husbands. So the message will get out to both. And we will try to develop something that is or isn't there."


Her thoughts were shared by Thomas McKenna, the national executive director of BBBSA volunteers.


"When BVD presented us with their strategy, there was clearly a synergy that existed between our goals and those of BVD," he said. "This plan speaks directly to our volunteer base, many of whom fit the BVD consumer demographic. It's a seamless match, both philosophically and idealistically."


In the last week of March, advertisements for the campaign will appear in such magazines as Sports Illustrated, People, GQ, Ebony, El Mundo Deportivo and Inside Sports.


BVD also will help BBBSA update its Web site (www.BBBSA.org), and a link to the BVD Web site (BVD.com) will be created. The BBBSA site will include information and communication devices for those wishing to volunteer or participate.


Gillock said there are plans to post an online application, along with a guide to the 500 BBBSA agencies.


Also taking part in the campaign is America's Promise - The Alliance for Youth, which is led by retired Gen. Colin Powell. BVD has been signed on as its commitment partner.
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