Polar Bear Plunge
The MTC team jumped into the deep end for this great cause.
- Brand Development
- Website Development
- Social Media Strategy
- Event Strategy
- PR Strategy
Since 1995, the Maryland State Police and Special Olympics Maryland have turned the annual Polar Bear Plunge and Plungefest into the most successful non-profit fundraiser in the state. To date, they have raised more than $25 million for local athletes. Equally as important, the events have become a Maryland tradition, drawing about 25,000 people to Sandy Point State Park every winter.
Attendees raise or donate money for the pleasure to jump into the frosty waters of the Chesapeake Bay in the middle of winter. Due to unfortunate weather causing the event to be altered the previous year, the event attendance and fundraising sagged.
When it came time to plan its 19th year, the organizers of Plungefest sought to create a fresh brand identity for the nine separate events that make up Plungefest, as well as an innovative campaign that would inject new enthusiasm into the program. The organizers wisely came to MTC to reinvigorate the event with new ideas and strategies.
We started with the event logos. We knew the iconic polar bear had to be a part of the visual language for the system but asked ourselves, wouldn’t moving away from the cartoon-like representations towards a bolder look more accurately reflect the level of chutzpah it takes to jump into the Chesapeake Bay in January? We can make it fun – but why not make it fearless as well? And so we re-imagined the bear, careful to keep it flexible enough to cover all the events that are targeted to different groups.
And speaking of differences, there is no one type of Plunger. There are men and women, children and adults, businessmen and plenty of others that migrate annually to the shore to participate in this charity event. But they do have one thing in common; they are all characters. This was the central idea behind the Species of the Chesapeake campaign. Celebrating the variety of participants, we developed a series of characters that humorously highlighted the amazing sub-groups of what we dubbed “the family Plungeotica.”
The campaign launched in August 2014 with the website landing page that described each species. Leading up to the event in January 2015, it expanded into posters, direct mailers, emails, Internet ads, digital billboards, radio spots co-produced by 98 Rock and of course components on social media. We even created large-scale displays that lived at the event itself.
Naturally, the bravest members of MTC couldn’t resist the challenge. And neither could the rest of Maryland. The Plunge saw the largest participation of their history, a 10% increase in social following, a 100% increase in Facebook engagement, and most importantly 40% increase in donations to over $2.5M (plus some ADDY Awards: Public Service Integrated Campaign; Public Service Digital Advertising; Illustration).