Deep dive into Boys & Girls Clubs of America's new work

The nonprofit is aiming to better communicate its 150-year-old brand and messaging.

Most people have heard of Boys and Girls Clubs of America, but not as many can explain exactly what it is or what it does. That’s what the nonprofit is looking to fix in its new campaign.

BGCA, which is 150 years old and serves more than 4.3 million children across 4,300-plus clubs in the U.S., recently worked with Dagger on its new "Listen" spot.

BGCA // BRAND // MASTER from Dagger on Vimeo.

Campaign US caught up with BGCA CMO Karl Kaiser and Dagger CCO Al Patton to discuss the creative work, the challenges of standing out in a cluttered non-profit landscape and how to produce work on a tight budget.

Check out the interview below. 

Standing out in the non-profit space is no easy task - even though you guys have a long heritage and well-known name. How do you come up against that challenge? 

Kaiser: I’ve been with Boys & Girls Clubs of America for 20 years and differentiating ourselves from other youth-serving organizations has been a challenge for us for some time.  We all do great work, and it can be difficult to stand out.  However, we are addressing the challenge by succinctly communicating who we are as a 150-year-old brand while executing modern techniques to serve the needs of today’s young people.  We are focused on what makes Boys & Girls Clubs different.  We have Clubs in every type of community serving some 4.3 million youth, evidence-based programming, trained professionals, and successful outcomes. 

What tactics are you using to get people to understand better what BGCA does?

Patton: Whenever you need to educate around a brand, or a product, or a service - or in this case an organization that has a very defined brand mission - it always starts by getting attention. If you don't get people's attention you're just shouting into a vacuum. The issue in the non-profit space is that so many organizations are trying to get attention in the same way. They're using similar tactics, the tried and true methods of tugging at the heartstrings, and as a result they're all blending in with each other. They're creating a whole category of work that feels "of a genre" and the audience isn't seeing the difference between one and the next. We knew that we had to come with a different kind of energy, something that would make people sit up and pay attention first, and then the receptivity would be there for educational piece. From a TV standpoint, this approach is what ultimately led us toward dynamic sound design. Not only did it feel different from everything else out there in the space, it had an attention getting quality that we thought would work hard.

How do you tell these stories with tight budgets on the media spend side? Does earned media or social play a big role?

Kaiser: Our strategy relies heavily on earned and social media. We use these platforms to tell compelling stories about our amazing Club kids, and passionate staff who go beyond to ensure kids receive the support needed to excel.   Because of our modest budgets, we must be creative in how we craft and share our content. Social media is extremely important because it allows us to disseminate targeted content resulting in a higher ROI. 

Our strategy also includes pro bono placements through traditional and nontraditional media.  We have been fortunate to have a network of partners who are equally passionate about the work we do.  They have been instrumental in our ability to expand our reach in sharing our brand story.  

Do you leverage brand ambassadors or brand partners?

Kaiser: We have an influence marketing strategy that is largely based on our alumni. Some of our most notable include: Denzel Washington, Jennifer Lopez, Shaquille O’Neal, to name a few.   They are individuals who know first hand the impact Boys & Girls Clubs have on young people.  Their stories are authentic, gripping, and inspirational.  
We also have strong relationships with corporate partners such as MLB, Comcast, Regal Cinemas, and Cox Communications, who are initial supporters of the campaign. 

When did you hire Dagger and why? 

Kaiser: We hired Dagger in 2018 to help us elevate our brand by increasing brand understanding. We were impressed with their ability to tackle our issue head-on.  We needed to directly tell the public who we are and what we do.    Dagger was able to develop multi-dimensional concepts that succinctly delivered one powerful message.   Their concepts were contrary to our norms and pushed us to be more innovative and modern in how we positioned our brand. 

Tell me about the recent work from Dagger. 

Patton: The "Whatever It Takes" campaign launched with a national brand PSA on TV called "Listen" and a second TV spot for the first of BGCA's strategic partners to adopt the campaign, Major League Baseball. That work featured the Cleveland Indians' All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor as well as the voices of actor/comedian JB Smoove (English version) and Mario Lopez (Spanish version). The MLB spot debuted during All-Star Weekend in broadcast and in-stadium. We've also begun rolling out assets in digital, social and out-of-home so the campaign now is really out there.

I think the quality of the work speaks for itself but what you wouldn't know is that it was produced entirely in-house at Dagger, without hiring a single outside production company or post-production vendor. The TVCs in particular were produced, directed, edited, sound designed, color corrected, mixed and delivered entirely by Dagger talent, within Dagger's walls. There were many unique aspects of creating this campaign but that may be one of the most unique.

How does the work reach such a wide range of target audiences?

Patton: That's one of the most exciting challenges about creating communications for Boys & Girls Clubs of America - we know the work has to resonate with a wide range of people. Kids, parents, mentors, club managers and staff, BGCA alumni, donors - the work has to speak to all of them. Usually you start in a place where you say you need a big idea, but here we started in a place where we said we need a wide idea, a concept where there was room enough to not only address all the ways BGCA unlocks great futures for kids, but also all the people who play a role in making that happen. For our "Listen" national brand PSA, one of the reasons we loved that concept was that it allowed several of our target audiences to see themselves in the work. And if they didn't see themselves directly in it, they surely saw the impact their contribution is having.

What's your goal for BGCA going forward? 

Kaiser: The goal of this campaign is to educate the public on what makes Boys & Girls Clubs unique. We are a long-standing brand that was founded on providing a safe place for young people to learn and to grow during the out of school hours.

Subscribe today for just $116 a year

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free