Move Over, Clinton and Trump: YMCA Backs a Toddler's Presidential Run in New Spot

Chicago-Based Nonprofit Tapped Droga5 for New Marketing Effort

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The YMCA will highlight its programs in a new election-themed spot.
The YMCA will highlight its programs in a new election-themed spot. Credit: YMCA

On the off chance the presidential election isn't immature enough already, the YMCA of the USA wants a juice-drinking, tantrum-throwing, nap-taking toddler to join the race. As part of its new "For a Better Us" campaign, the Chicago-based nonprofit will air "Zoe for President," a spot that features a one year old hoping to be elected leader of the free world in 2064. The 45-second spot will debut digitally on Feb. 25; 30-and 15-second versions will air on national TV.

"This was a great opportunity to shift perception," said Kevin Washington, a 37-year veteran of the organization who was appointed president and CEO two years ago. "She's a new candidate who really represents what we want to do for kids to make sure they reach their full potential -- it's important to invest in our young folks who are going to be our future leaders." He noted that the Y, which was founded in 1844, wants to promote itself as more than just a gym with a pool. The Zoe spot will help emphasize the Y's commitment to community and youth. The videos will be supplemented by Zoe for President swag on a microsite,, yard signs and social media.

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The "For a Better Us" campaign, created with Droga5, debuted late last month with two other spots -- "Places" and "Idle Hands," which showcased the nonprofit's necessity in neighborhoods and with children. The effort is part of a larger rebranding that began six years ago and included an updated logo and mission, designed to increase awareness and donations. In 2014, the Y generated revenue of $6.6 billion, a slight uptick over $6.5 billion in 2013.

Mr. Washington declined to say how much the Y, which operates more than 2,700 branches nationally, is spending on the campaign. The nonprofit invested $11.7 million in measured media in 2014, the most recent data available -- roughly a 15% increase over the prior year, according to Kantar Media.

Since the campaign's launch earlier this year, the Y's website has seen an increase in site visits compared to the year-earlier period, and a spike in social engagement across Facebook and Twitter, a spokeswoman for the brand noted.

The Y is working with Catalyst on public relations and media agency Kelly Scott Madison.

Other brands are also taking advantage of the election year to air their own political-themed campaigns. Earlier this week, announced its Captain Obvious character, which it introduced two years ago, is running for president -- literally. The jogging candidate will document his experiences nationwide through social media and TV spots in a campaign created with Crispin Porter + Bogusky that will run through Election Day in November.

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