Boy Scouts Targets Millennial Parents in New Campaign

New Strategy Comes After Years of Declining Membership and Bad Publicity

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The Boy Scouts of America's first new marketing campaign in five years is targeting millennial parents with a message of fun and adventure this back-to-school season. The push encourages parents, who are balancing family and work, to help kids enjoy being kids.

"Our program makes the most of the limited time that parents have," said Stephen Medlicott, national marketing group director at the Boy Scouts of America. "We offer them so many opportunities for their sons to learn new skills, and for their sons to learn leadership."

The new strategy comes after years of declining membership and bad publicity over the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders. The organizaton's youth membership dropped 5.85% to 2,612,955 last year, from 2,658,794 in 2012, according to annual reports.

With a new campaign and president -- U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, took the helm in May – the Boy Scouts of America hopes to steer public discussion back to the benefits it offers youths. Mr. Medlicott, said the focus is on "elevating all the positive things that are happening through scouting."

To get parents and children excited about scouting, the campaign called "Build an Adventure," centers on fun and adventure and stresses the value of making every moment count. "Character and values are still very important, but [millennial parents] are also honed in on the fun and adventurous side of scouting," said Mr. Medlicott.

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"Build an Adventure," includes three public service announcements that promote scouting. Two of the spots play on the idea of being a builder by comparing programs to a construction zone where children can play and explore. The third video, "Rocketman," emphasizes building the foundation for a child's future. The push also includes print ads and social media support. Boy Scouts of America's agency of record, FleishmanHillard, produced the PSAs.

Unlike the Boys Scouts of America's last campaign, "Badge of Honor," which focused on the child, this new push relates to parents who have other demands to manage. It's primarily aimed at the parents of Cub Scout-aged boys, who are 7 to 10 years old, with the idea that children who scout earlier in life will stick with it and feed into the Boy Scouts program for 11 to 17-year-olds. Cub Scouts comprise about 60% of all members in the organization, said Mr. Medlicott.

The Boy Scouts of America is also trying to make it easier for youths and families to join its programs by spreading the word through volunteers and parents of members. Mr. Medlicott hopes that the campaign's digital and social elements will "energize" volunteers and parents to share their experiences in scouting. He says parents are more likely to get involved when they hear about the program from other parents who are in it.

The campaign's August launch was tied to the back-to-school season, which is the largest recruitment period for scouting across the country, according to Mr. Medlicott. It was initially planned for 2015, but Mr. Medlicott said the reaction from local councils, which learned about it in May, was "so positive and strong" that the campaign was moved up. He expects it to take a full year before it's adopted throughout the Boy Scouts of America system – which includes about 300 local councils.

At the national level, the Boy Scouts of America spent about $400,000 to develop the content, assets and resources for the campaign, which will receive national social media support. The organization doesn't typically purchase media at the national level, and instead relies on local councils across the country to conduct their own media buys with funds they receive from local partnerships.

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