Matt Damon Stays on Message

August 28, 2014

Matt Damon Stays on Message

August 28, 2014

Group Gordon’s Elana Rueven blogs about the right way to support a cause AND stay on message. 8.28.2014

It’s fair to say that the wild popularity and widespread reach of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has underscored the power of social media to revolutionize how nonprofits will consider fundraising in the future. From Oprah to The Patriots, many have joined this major social media campaign, accepting the challenge to help raise millions of dollars for ALS.


The rapid spread of the challenge is fueled by its simple call to action and visual message. By posting videos of the challenge on social media, it quickly became hard to ignore. Seth Meyers did the challenge while hosting the Emmys. Justin Timberlake did it while on tour. Even Group Gordon’s own Michael Gordon took the plunge.

There is no doubt of the campaign’s fundraising success. The ALS Association reports upwards of $88 million raised as a result of the increased awareness of the disease between July 29 and August 26, 2014. The same time span last year raised $2.6 million.

And while many have risen to the challenge to show their support for ALS research, what should a person or brand do when it wants to support something like the Ice Bucket Challenge, but hesitates because it is truly off message?

Enter Matt Damon, who has been challenged by Jimmy Kimmel, Ben Affleck, and likely countless fans asking him to take on the challenge. What’s special about this challenge for Matt?

In addition to his work in Hollywood, Matt is co-founder of the charity, a major nonprofit initiative that is focused on providing clean water and adequate sanitation to every person across the world. Does Matt waste a bucket of clean water to support ALS research? Does he opt to ignore the growing number of challenges he’s received?

No, Matt stays on message.

Rather than wasting clean water, he uses toilet water to complete the challenge and support both ALS research and his own initiative. He uses the Ice Bucket Challenge as an opportunity to educate the viewer, making the point that the toilet water in his California home is cleaner than the water that some in the developing world have access to. And, his strategy worked!

Because he addressed viewers honestly about why the challenge conflicted him, people listened—Matt’s Ice Bucket Challenge video has been watched over a million times on YouTube. It also made people talk about why Matt Damon dumped toilet water on his head, drawing attention to another worthy cause: clean water. By answering a call to action and staying on message, Matt managed to draw attention to another worthy cause: clean water.
How did others balance participating in the challenge and staying on message? While not many were faced with as direct a conflict with their messaging as Matt Damon, many brands chose to address the challenge with jokes (like the Energizer Bunny) rather than mold the challenge to their messaging. Some other celebrities, like Leonardo DiCaprio, shared information on other organizations they support without making the same impact. But Matt Damon shows the true value of staying on message.

Now that’s a strategy we can get behind.