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How the #IceBucketChallenge is a Game-changer for Cause Awareness

today show ice bucket challengeImage Courtesy Today.com

In the last week, chances are someone you know has dumped a bucket of ice over their head to raise awareness for ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). But a week ago you may not have even known what ALS was. This viral initiative has dared hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions — of regular folks as well as many high profile people like Mark Zuckerberg, Jimmy Fallon, the entire New England Patriots football team and Ethel Kennedy to douse themselves with ice water and generated millions of media impressions. Coverage has included leading broadcast and online outlets – even a live on-air accepted challenge from The TODAY Show’s Matt Lauer.

The #IceBucketChallenge was not propelled into the spotlight with the help of a recognizable pharmaceutical company or celebrity endorsement. Rather, the celebrity falls to regular people and patients like 29-year-old Pete Frates, who set the wheels in motion with his own challenge to a few friends and favorite athletes. The rest is history (or on your Facebook newsfeed).

This movement is not without controversy; with many questioning whether participants are only accepting the challenge to be part of the trend. The true test of the #IceBucketChallenge and viral campaigns like it is whether it can span beyond raising awareness and convert social posts to dollar signs for research and truly #StrikeOutALS. According to a recent interview with PRWeek, there have been a flood of donations to ALSA.org, with $5.7M being raised in the last two weeks alone.

Campaigns like this provide inspiration for other diseases that lack a recognizable celebrity advocate, including multiple sclerosis, lupus and mental illnesses. Parkinson ’s disease, for example, has benefitted from high awareness and research funding because of Michael J. Fox’s goal of eliminating the disease “in our lifetime.” The #IceBucketChallenge proved that you don’t need a recognizable face to attract awareness and funding. You just need a great idea that goes viral. #nopressure.

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