Harness the Commanding Presence of Celebrity
Celebrity supporters that have an affinity and passion for an organization’s mission can help gain media exposure and attention for a cause, among a host of other things.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF has used celebrities as ambassadors for its cause for more than 50 of its 60 years.
Actor Danny Kaye was the organization’s first celebrity representative, serving as a Goodwill Ambassador from 1954 until his death in 1987. Among other things he did in support of the organization, Kaye toured UNICEF projects in Myanmar, India, Indonesia, Korea, Thailand and Japan, creating a documentary of his travels called “Assignment: Children.” The film was underwritten by Paramount Pictures and seen by more than 100 million people when it opened, with profits going to UNICEF.
“He really put UNICEF’s mission into the households of Americans and helped endear our work to many people,” says Lisa Szarkowski, managing director of public relations for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “He used the trust and credibility that the public had for him to share our mission.”
Many celebrities have since followed in Kaye’s footsteps as UNICEF ambassadors. Szarkowski says the organization’s connection to such well-known individuals has helped it overcome the challenge of bringing the work UNICEF does in other countries to Americans’ back yards.
“The kids that we serve are thousands of miles away, very anonymous to a lot of people, to some extent less visible and, in some minds, less relevant because they’re not right here. And it’s the job of our ambassadors to really help humanize our mission. To show the kids, tell the stories of the kids, give them a voice on the world stage and really show that to the public. And they have been invaluable,” Szarkowski says.
Celebrity endorsers command attention from the media and can put the spotlight on an issue that otherwise might escape the public eye. As an example, Szarkowski points to the situation in Darfur. UNICEF tried for years to draw attention to Darfur, but it wasn’t until actress Mia Farrow took a trip there three years ago that it got coverage in the media.