Major Starbucks Push Will Encourage Community Service

Coffee Chain Plans to Back New Campaign With Broadcast TV

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Starbucks is launching a major marketing initiative called "I'm in" next week tied to the inauguration and rooted in community service. The push will encourage latte lovers to visit soup kitchens, read to the blind or otherwise commit to give back. Details of the supporting ad buy are still sketchy, although broadcast TV will be the lynchpin.

Starbucks Pledge Card
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Consumers who promise to do five hours of community service during 2009 at their local Starbucks between Jan. 21 and 25 will get a pledge card and a free cup of coffee.

"This is very much in line with the national call to service that's been put out," said Starbucks spokeswoman Lisa Passe. "Everyone has heard loud and clear that this is a time to act, and what Starbucks is doing is breaking down the barriers of how to connect with your local community."

Ms. Passe added that for people who haven't previously been involved in community service, getting started can be daunting, so Starbucks has partnered with the Hands On Network, the nation's-largest volunteer organization.

Consumers who promise to do five hours of community service during 2009 at their local Starbucks between Jan. 21 and 25 will get a pledge card and a free cup of coffee. The campaign, via Omnicom Group's BBDO, New York, is the chain's latest attempt to get back to its grass-roots image. At Thanksgiving, Starbucks announced a multiyear partnership with Project Red to fund African AIDS programs.

Goal: 1 million hours
Starbucks will track progress to its goal of a combined 1 million pledged hours of community service at pledge5.starbucks.com. The chain plans to sell the five-hour commitment as something anyone can do with just 25 minutes every month. The Pledge5 website will give consumers a list of convenient volunteer opportunities.

The "I'm in" ad buy is the latest evidence that Starbucks is getting more comfortable with TV, a marketing medium it eschewed for decades. Starbucks' first TV ad buy came around Thanksgiving 2007 to promote holiday drinks, but the chain wasn't back on the tube until nearly a year later, when it announced its Election Day coffee giveaway with a spot during "Saturday Night Live." Starbucks was most recently on the airwaves the day before Thanksgiving, and the buy was for one day.

Ms. Passe said the latest TV splash will be similar to its one-shot Election Day deal. "It will be purposeful, and in the right place at the right time," she said. Starbucks has yet to finalize the campaign's online components, or whether any print media will be used.

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