The Starlight Campaign

tru_plushBecause kids are central to the Toys “R” Us brand, the retailer focuses much of its CSR efforts on helping provide distractions and entertainment during lengthy treatments. Having to spend their days in and out of hospital beds, gravely ill and injured children typically experience stress, anxiety and boredom.

For the last 15 years, the toy retailer has worked with the Starlight Children’s Foundation to raise funds to support sick children and their families in Canada. By empowering its employees, customers and vendors to make a contribution, the brand is able to connect with kids and families on a more personal level.

A 2012 campaign with in-store signage, flyer call-outs, a microsite and PR push generated brand and fundraising awareness. There was also promotion via the Toys “R” Us and Starlight websites, as well as through blogs and social media.

In November and December, more than 6,000 employees acted as ambassadors for Starlight, raising money through the sale of “Stars” online, inside stores and through “fun-raising” events. The brand created an e-learning platform where employees were educated on how to encourage customers to make a donation.

The brand also created a plush bear called Abbalicious (which is sold online and at Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores, with the proceeds going to the foundation) in honour of Abby, a young girl who battled and succumbed to a rare disease.

And to make stays in hospitals less frightening, the brand also sponsors Starlight kits that contain books, toys and puzzles for kids admitted to the ER.

To help net big donors, Toys “R” Us was a Diamond sponsor of “Starlight Gala 2012,” where the brand gave gift cards and other auction items (such as a sleepover at Toys “R” Us stores).

Its partner vendors contributed to the charity by donating hours and money, as well as toys and baby products. To further engage staff and partners, Toys “R” Us hosts an annual Starlight Golf Tournament for its vendors and employees, with guest speakers talking about the trials of raising a sick child and how the foundation has had a positive impact on their lives.

And to rally the community, the brand created the “Miles for Smiles” event in honour of a Toys “R” Us employee’s son, Maxime, who had passed away. The father and six co-workers cycled 600 km to raise awareness and money for Starlight.

In 2012, Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us raised more than $1.5 million for the Starlight Children’s Foundation, making it the most successful year of its partnership with the charity to date.

The Starlight campaign raised more than $1.4 million, with the golf tournament raising $125,000 and “Miles for Smiles” generating another $9,400. The brand sold 4,640 Abbalicious bears and gave 74 grants (worth $2,000 each) to 59 different hospitals. The campaign won a Cause + Action award and this write up can be found on Strategy online.

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