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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Last Updated: 6/22/2012

SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)


VIII. Media Sponsorship

Why Get Media Sponsors?

One of the main objectives of the walkathon is to increase the general public's awareness of mental health. Getting media coverage of the walk is important in achieving this goal.

Official Media Sponsorship vs. "Playing the field"

When building your public relations plan, we recommend that you first decide whether or not you want to recruit specific media sponsors (an official radio station, TV station, and newspaper sponsor) or "play the field" by not committing to specific media sponsors, therefore getting coverage by more than one station. There are pros and cons to both approaches.

Pros for having an official media sponsor:

  • Official media sponsors usually give a walk much greater coverage than they do an event that they are not associated with in any way.
  • Official media sponsors often will assist with the writing and production (i.e., filming and recording) or design (for a newspaper ad) of a public service announcement (PSA) for the walk. The dollar value of this in-kind service is substantial. If you want to produce your own PSA with your own celebrity walk chair and you don't have a media sponsor who will provide this service, you will have to find a PR firm or video production company to provide these services at no charge or at a significantly reduced charge. Finding a PR firm or video production company to provide these services can be difficult.
  • A limited number of media sponsors saves you the cost (in time and in money) of duplicating and distributing to the local media any PSAs that you might produce for the walk.
  • Media sponsors often provide you an on-air personality who will appear in the PSA if you don't have a celebrity chair who is ready and willing to film or record the PSA.
  • Once the PSA is produced, the main media sponsors usually are willing to run it on air or in their newspaper fairly often for approximately 2 to 4 weeks before the walk.
  • Media sponsors of the walk also are more likely to do news and human interest stories on mental health around the time of the walk to help increase the general public's awareness of the importance of mental health.
  • It is generally much easier to build a strong personal and professional relationship with a contact at one media sponsor than it is to develop and maintain relationships with many media outlets.
  • Media sponsors often sponsor an employee team to participate in the walk.
  • Media sponsors sometimes make cash donations in addition to the in-kind support (promoting and running PSAs) that they may provide the walk.

Cons for having an official media sponsor:

  • Other media outlets are unlikely to cover a walk as a newsworthy event if one of their competitors is an official sponsor.
  • Official media sponsors may not reach the full viewing/listening or reading public as would having PSAs on multiple TV or radio stations or in multiple newspapers.
  • Once you have an official media sponsor, you are "locked in" even if the outlet turns out to be less committed to promoting the event than the way you thought they agreed to.

If you decide to have an official media sponsor, how should you target and recruit one?

  • Look for connections or relationships that you or your volunteers may have with local media outlets. Whether it is with managers at a local station or newspaper with an on-air personality, use those connections to get your foot in the door.
  • Have a face-to-face meeting with your connection. If that isn't possible, use both the phone and the mail. Submit a proposal and followup with a phone call (or vice versa, but be sure to do both).
  • Provide a walk information folder with information on the sponsoring organization and mental health in one pocket and information on the walk and media sponsorship in another.

What should you ask your media sponsor to do?

  • Help you produce (write, film, or record) a PSA for the walk.
  • Provide you a celebrity to serve as a walk chair and star in the PSA (if you need one). If you do need a celebrity chair, you should ask that they:
  • Agree to appear in or record the PSA or be interviewed by the newspaper that is sponsoring the walk.
  • Agree to appear and speak at as many of the following walk events as his/her schedule permits:
    • Initial volunteer meeting.
    • Walk kickoff luncheon.
    • The walk itself.
    • Allow his/her photo to be included in the walker sponsor brochure.
    • Agree to be interviewed about his/her support of the walk.
  • Consider signing a limited number of walk-related letters that would be sent out to confirmed or potential supporters of the walk (always clear any letter in advance with the celebrity chair prior to sending it).
  • Agree to run the PSA as often as possible as far in advance of the walk as possible.
  • Make a cash sponsorship donation to the walk.
  • Sponsor an employee team in the walk.
  • Cover the walk and the walk kickoff as news events.

What would the sponsor be getting in return?

  • It depends on the level of support they provide, but generally, if a sponsor agreed to provide most of the support mentioned above they might receive the same recognition that a major or presenting sponsor of the walk receives. A sponsor who helps produce a PSA and agrees to run it a significant number of times during the weeks leading up to the walk should be recognized at the major or presenting sponsor level.
  • If you enlist a media sponsor, send a letter to review and confirm the agreement

In summary—

  • Reducing stigma by increasing public awareness is the main goal of the walkathon.
  • Start your PR efforts by deciding whether to have a select media sponsor for your walk or to promote the walk on all the media outlets in your market.
  • If you decide to recruit a limited number of media sponsors from among TV, radio, and newspapers in your market, start by looking for any relationships or connections that may help you "get in the door" with your media prospects.
  • Always try to have a face-to-face meeting with the person you have the relationship with. If you can't get the meeting, send a letter with a media sponsorship folder and then followup with a phone call.
  • Be as specific as possible in what you ask for and outline the recognition that the media sponsor will receive in return for their support.
  • Always confirm what was agreed upon in writing.

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This Web site was developed under contract with the Office of Consumer Affairs in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The views, opinions, and content provided on this Web site do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS. The resources listed in this Web site are not all-inclusive and inclusion on this Web site does not constitute an endorsement by SAMHSA or HHS.