RMH BC & Yukon is United in hope of caring for families in need

Who: Ronald McDonald House BC & Yukon, with Cossette West for strategy and creative; Dear Friend for production (Rich Murray directing); Wave Productions for sound; RMH for media.

What: “RMH United,” a new campaign celebrating the 40th anniversary of RMH British Columbia & Yukon, using the common sports practice of jersey sponsorship as a fundraising hook.

When & Where: The campaign debuted last month, running across TV and social networks, supported by out-of-home and a dedicated website at SponsorOurTeam.ca.

Why: The first RMH BC & Yukon house opened on Oct. 4, 1983, serving 14 families. Today, it serves up to 2,000 families a year, providing somewhere to stay while children are undergoing medical treatment.

But the charity’s resources are also finite, forcing it to turn away more than 500 families each year because it is at capacity. It required a campaign capable not only of marking a milestone anniversary, but also raising much-needed funds from both individuals and corporate sponsors.

“The tension that always happens with anniversaries, and particularly charities, is that you want to celebrate what they’ve achieved, but you don’t want to give anyone the impression that they don’t still need support,” said Cossette West’s group creative director, John Osborne. “In a world where there are umpteen charities you can donate do, how do you cut through that noise and make people say ‘RMH is where I’m going to put my money’?”

Osborne said the goal with “RMH United” was to avoid the “boxes” that charity campaigns typically fall into, using edginess, shock value, or sentimentality to get attention. “[H]ow do you carve out any new territory within the space,” he said. “[‘RMH United’] is essentially a donation mechanic, but making that interesting is no easy feat.”

How: Osborne said that the creative approach was born out of two insights. One of which is that the charity and its users are truly a team. The second arose out of a site visit by the Cossette West creative team, where they noticed that individual rooms within the house featured plaques commemorating individual and corporate donors.

“We thought… maybe we needed to champion the people who are supporting the charity, so it’s not just nameless individuals throwing their money into a pot,” said Osborne. “Let’s champion those people who are actually enabling this team to carry on.”

That quickly led to the idea of jersey sponsorship, and reimagining patients, parents, medical professionals and RMH staff as a team called “RMH United,” complete with a crest marking the 40th anniversary and whose digital jersey, like those of their real-world counterparts, would be festooned with the names of corporate donors. “United” is not only an apt descriptor of RHM and its partners, but also a widely used team name within soccer (there are 13 teams named United within the top four divisions of English soccer alone).

Corporate sponsors to date include McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, WestJet, Saputo, Rexall, and RBC. Individuals can also donate as “supporters,” of the team, with their name appearing on a scroll at the bottom of the SponsorOurTeam website. People can also support the effort by purchasing an official RMH United athletic jersey or T-shirt.

And we quote: “Our challenge each year is to raise enough money to continue keeping families with sick children together. What raised the stakes this year is that it marked our 40th anniversary—so, we needed a campaign that not only celebrated this milestone, but also continued pushing for donations to keep us going for another 40 years and beyond. This is how RMH United was born: by creating the team dynamic we needed to support donations.” — Stephanie Mosher, VP, philanthropy, Ronald McDonald House BC & Yukon.


Chris Powell