Starbucks' Volunteer Push Gets Boost From 'Oprah Effect'

Pledges to Coffee Chain's 'I'm In' Campaign Soar After Talk-Show Mention

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CHICAGO ( -- Starbucks' campaign to promote volunteerism (and store traffic) got a huge bump today from no less than Oprah Winfrey -- and by extension, Barack Obama.

The talk-show host talked up the java giant's "I'm In" campaign, which encourages consumers to pledge five hours of community service before the end of the year. Those who commit to doing so at Starbucks between now and Sunday will be rewarded with a free coffee.

'Golden opportunity'
"So many Americans have been absolutely galvanized to participate in this new day, this new age for our country, and so today we are announcing a golden opportunity for you to do something," Ms. Winfrey said in discussing the promotion during today's broadcast, which featured footage from a local Starbucks. Her statement followed a clip from President Barack Obama's inaugural address, in which he called for a "new era of responsibility."

As part of her day-after-inauguration show, Ms. Winfrey set up a camera crew at a Starbucks in Washington's Dupont Circle. Her correspondent, Ali Wentworth, was at the scene talking to consumers about their community-service pledges.

Ms. Winfrey also encouraged Americans to help the chain double its goal of 1 million hours pledged on the coffee company's site, The "Oprah effect" already seems to be working: According to the site, about 350,000 hours were pledged by this afternoon on the East Coast.

Big rewards
The talk-show host is notoriously choosy about which people, companies or products she mentions on her show, although the few that make the cut can reap major rewards.

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey Credit: Harpo Productions, Inc.
Starbucks reached out to Ms. Winfrey following its Election Day coffee giveaway, made her aware of the coming campaign and quickly began organizing an integration on her show. The chain later organized an ad buy at Online ads promoting "I'm In" are also appearing at Slate, Huffington Post,,, CNN and Facebook, among other sites.

For the promotion, Starbucks created an "I'm In" TV spot, from BBDO, New York, filled with inspirational sentiments such as "hope" and "together we are better," to air on CNN and CNN Headline News, as well as a variety of NBC Universal platforms, including MSNBC, NBC's prime-time schedule and "Today." This is a particularly aggressive buy for Starbucks, which announced its Election Day giveaway with one spot on NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

Bon Jovi's blessing
"We are delighted that with the help of Oprah, the Starbucks 'I'm In' campaign will reach an even broader audience, thus helping us attain our goal of over one million pledged volunteer hours," said Chris Bruzzo, Starbucks VP-digital strategy and content. "Starbucks' partnership with Oprah is inspired by mutual commitment to a common purpose -- driving change in America through volunteering in our communities."

And if the Oprah halo wasn't enough, Starbucks got boost from Bon Jovi, who was a guest on today's show. "I want to congratulate Howard Schultz and Starbucks for thinking of the 'I'm In' campaign so that people do want to get involved," Mr. Bon Jovi said. "Corporate America deserves, in this instance, a pat on the back."

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