St Vincent de Paul Society

In the ten years since its inception, the CEO Sleepout has steadily grown to become one of the signature events of Vinnies’ national fundraising calendar and one of its greatest success stories — now raising upwards of $3 million per year in support of the homeless. With 1 in 200 Australians being homeless, and a staggering one third of these are children, the work of the charity is an invaluable contribution to our community.

Project Overview

In 2016, as the CEO Sleepout enters its second decade, we were engaged to refresh the event’s national advertising strategy with the aim of bolstering its fundraising success, and to further position Vinnies as the foremost authority on homelessness issues in Australia.

Our campaign strategy consisted of two distinct, but interrelated aims: The first of these was to recruit a record number of CEOs to participate in the event, and then secondly, to educate these CEOs, turning them into advocates for homelessness issues and empowering them to raise more money than ever before.

In recruiting CEOs, we took a decidedly different path than the CEO Sleepout campaigns of previous years. We downplayed the challenge of participating in an effort to broaden its appeal to as many CEOs as possible, and to encourage repeat participation from those who had already completed the challenge once.

Instead, our campaign took a decidedly lighter, more positive tone. While it goes without saying that the event – spending a night sleeping rough – is challenging to participate in, we sought to communicate that while homelessness is a large and complex issue, it’s possible to make a huge difference in people’s lives by doing something as simple as sleeping. This presents a proposition that initially seems impossible and then, shortly after, obvious. While it seems absurd that someone could actually help the homeless in their sleep, it’s exactly what participants in this event do.

This strategy was crystallised in the event’s new campaign tagline: “Fight Homelessness in your Sleep”  Beyond broadening the event’s appeal, this tagline also clearly set the tone for the entire event, allowing us to build an entire campaign around the a single, central theme of “sleep”. Unifying the visual materials and written communications in this way allowed for stronger, simpler and more memorable messaging.

This theme of sleep permeated the entire CEO Sleepout campaign, with a pyjama-inspired brand pattern used to tie the campaign’s many promotional materials together.

To recruit CEOs to the campaign, we used raw and perception-challenging photography of real-life CEOs and executives, photographed in their pyjamas coupled with the campaign’s “Fight Homelessness in your Sleep” tagline. These ads were then strategically targeted to environments frequented by CEOs, including at airports and city carpark lifts.

Once registered, the second stage of the campaign involved educating CEOs, turning them into advocates for homelessness issues and empowering them to raise more money than ever before. Each CEO was sent a care package including, amongst a range of sleep-themed promotional items, a booklet containing everything they would need to become informed, effective advocates and to maximise their fundraising efforts.

Named “Bedtime Stories” in keeping with the event’s theme, this booklet included simple, memorable statistics about homelessness, Vinnies and the CEO Sleepout, coupled with powerful real-life stories from people whose lives have been changed as a result of other people’s generosity. Along with helping participants to educate donors about Vinnies and the CEO Sleepout, the book also served the dual purpose of breaking common cliches and stereotypes surrounding homelessness – an important secondary aim of the campaign.

As a result of this campaign, the CEO Sleepout attracted a record number of CEO participants and raised a record $6 million nationally.

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