So the ice bucket is empty, we’ve toweled off, and even had a chance to read some really interesting perspectives on why the Ice Bucket Challenge (IBC) worked so well. We agree with much of what is being shared about the elements that contributed to its viral success—that it was easy to do, fun, worthwhile, personal and time sensitive. But something we explored that we didn’t see discussed much yet was the timing of some of the most socially influential celebrities’ participation in the Ice Bucket Challenge relative to donations and new donors.
This led us to consider another factor that we believe contributed (albeit indirectly) to keeping the campaign viral: The social celeb.
We charted the donation and new donor data from the ALS Association press releases, which started August 11. We discovered a correlation between the participation of the most socially influential celebrities in the IBC and the growth of ALSA donors and donations. Surprisingly, when the most socially influential celebs were participating, donations doubled not just once but twice.
But correlation does not always mean causation (as our friends at Farsite remind us), especially when you consider the rules of the challenge. Participants challenged new participants directly—typically 3 at a time—so the impact of celebrity on the challenge was probably more indirect (though Justin Beiber did challenge all his “Beliebers” when he took the challenge the second time). Instead, celebrities brought attention and awareness to the cause through their social networks and made it more newsworthy for traditional media—a double whammy. And perhaps just as important, their participation gave the challenge the necessary cool factor and the ability to participate right alongside some of the biggest stars—something we regular Joes and Josephines typically don’t get to do.
Would the IBC been a success without celebrity involvement? Yes. But we believe social celebrity influence took it over the top.