ALS Ice Bucket Challenge focus of study at B&E

August 28, 2014


The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is taking the U.S. by storm. Oprah Winfrey did it. Bill Gates did it. Smack dab in the middle of his farewell tour with the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter did it. Former President George W. Bush did it anyway after he said he would write a check instead. Lady Gaga did it, and so did Michael Jordan. It’s impossible to scan your social media accounts without noticing it.

B&E Marketing Chair Dr. Michael Walsh took a look at the Ice Bucket Challenge in his Principles of Marketing class this week, during which — oh yes, he did — he met the Challenge.

“Not only am I participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge because I’ve been challenged, but I’m also making this a living experiment for my BCOR 350 class. I’m asking everyone to please post this on (social media) and encourage their followers to like or share. At some point, we’ll figure out just how many people have seen this,” Walsh said.

Dr. Walsh Ice Bucket Challengeh

It’s the vogue way to raise money for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease), which has turned fundraising for the devastating disease upside down. And it has put a brand new spin on marketing and non-profit fundraising.

TIME magazine has posted stories entitled, “How the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Could Change Fundraising” and “The New Rules of Viral Fundraising.” You think it’s not something worth studying? ALS Association figures indicate it had received $79.7 million in donations from July 29 through August 25. To put that in perspective, the organization received $64 million in donations throughout the entirety of 2013.

Walsh said the manner in which the Challenge has taken social media by storm is worth examining in class.

“Brands and marketers are constantly asking people to do things,” Walsh said. “Buy a product. Register to win a car. Tweet to get a discount. Create a new account to get new updates. However, how often have we been asked to dump a bucket of ice water on our heads? Partly, this is working because it is so incredibly unusual.”

The ALS Association advocates for scientific research to treat the disease. There is no cure for ALS, and patients die after suffering through gradual paralysis. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord. The average life expectancy of a person with ALS is two to five years from time of diagnosis. ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries.

But the Ice Bucket Challenge may bring us closer to a cure.

“What a professor will do for his students,” said Walsh, cold and drenched — and smiling.