Chevrolet, faced with the need to be more relevant to young people, wanted to impact an issue that resonated with this important demographic group. Also focused on deepening its relationships with dealers, Chevrolet tasked Cone to develop a program that met both criteria. Through extensive research, the Cone team learned that teens’ top concern was school safety and confirmed that Chevrolet dealers were already supporting a range of youth organizations. Chevy R.O.C.K. (Reaching Out to Communities & Kids) was born. Cone identified the National Association of Students Against Violence Everywhere (S.A.V.E.) as the nonprofit partner and created the Chevy R.O.C.K. Matching Grant Program to support and engage the critical dealer network.
Although Chevrolet had chosen a relevant issue and created a program based on dealer input, the team had a short timeframe between August 2000 and May 2001 to engage dealers, increase S.A.V.E. awareness and number of chapters, and build overall momentum on a limited budget. S.A.V.E. had limited experience working with large corporations, thus the team faced the additional challenge of generating results in a short timeframe.
Planning and Research:
Cone worked closely with Chevrolet’s internal taskforce throughout the Cause Maximization™ process to identify objectives and audiences for the program. The Cause Maximization™ Process is Cone’s proprietary, multi-phased process used to develop a signature and comprehensive Cause Branding® program. Activities during this process include: brand briefing, competitive analysis, internal interviews, program criteria development, issues research, strategic alliances, concept development and plan, and implementation and communications strategies.
The following objectives were identified:
- Connect with youth and diverse markets in a meaningful way
- Enhance Chevrolet dealers’ image in local markets and provide opportunities for Chevrolet to deepen its relationship with local dealers nationwide
- Elevate the public profile of the Chevrolet brand and demonstrate Chevrolet’s corporate citizenship
- Increase awareness of and the number of chapters nationwide for the selected nonprofit partner, S.A.V.E.
To create a program that would resonate with key stakeholders, Cone conducted in-depth research and interviewed nonprofit organizations, industry competitors and other businesses to identify a unique position within an issue, including:
- 35 Chevrolet executives and 15 Chevrolet dealers
- 624 dealers nationwide via a National Dealer Survey conducted to identify causes dealers currently support and those that Chevrolet should support
- 133 national nonprofit organizations and interviews with 27 experts and government officials
To recommend the right long-term nonprofit partner, Cone identified the following critical criteria: proven track record; local reach with national impact; multiple program elements; and minimal or no other corporate supporters.
In an effort to “break through the clutter” and differentiate Chevrolet within the issue and among competitors, Cone conducted research of competitors’ philanthropic activities and other businesses with youth and youth violence prevention programs. The research affirmed that Chevrolet should focus its program on youth development overall with a component focused on youth violence prevention.
To support dealers at the local level and strengthen Chevrolet’s commitment to making a difference in youth violence prevention, Cone and the Chevrolet taskforce created Chevy R.O.C.K. with two major components:
National sponsorship of S.A.V.E.: Chevrolet’s goal through Chevy R.O.C.K. is to generate awareness of the nonprofit organization, S.A.V.E., and increase the numbers of chapters in schools nationwide. S.A.V.E. is a student-led organization that promotes peace, civility and nonviolence among young people through communication, education and positive extracurricular activities in schools nationwide. Students in S.A.V.E. chapters take the lead in keeping their schools safe by planning nonviolence activities and teaching other students the importance of solving conflicts peacefully.
Matching Grant Program: This program provides grant opportunities to qualifying Chevrolet dealer-supported nonprofit youth organizations to help dealers strengthen their current commitments by providing increased resources and tools in their communities. Cone worked with Chevrolet’s taskforce to develop the Chevy R.O.C.K. Matching Grant Program. Grant criteria were developed to reflect input from dealer surveys and employee interviews identifying youth development, education and school violence prevention as the top issues to impact.
Chevrolet’s long-term goal is to offer Chevy R.O.C.K. to all of its 4,000+ dealers. Therefore, the company decided to test the program and each of its elements to learn best practices with the goal of expanding the program nationally over time. Cone worked with Chevrolet to identify a region to test the initiative and chose four markets in the southeast region due to a large, growing, diverse youth population and a strong dealer body.
The Chevy R.O.C.K. program test was implemented in the following ways:
Branded Identity: Cone created a program name and worked with General Motors’ Design Team to develop a logo for Chevy R.O.C.K. that reflected its brand heritage – genuine, reliable and one that supports its advertising taglines, “Like a Rock” and “We’ll be There.” The logo has been used on all S.A.V.E. materials—shirts, organization manuals, brochures, Web site, temporary tattoos and in all dealer communications (letterhead, How-to Kit, newsletter, presentations, etc.)
Grassroots Events and Local Media Outreach: Chevrolet funds enabled S.A.V.E. to reach out to local schools and facilitate training workshops to educate teachers, students and other officials about S.A.V.E and provide information on how to start chapters in their schools. Cone conducted media outreach to raise awareness of S.A.V.E. and these events. Cone also supported dealers who participated in the Matching Grant Program with their local media outreach efforts.
Public Awareness: Chevrolet raised funds and awareness for S.A.V.E. through its Avalanche (new vehicle) Tour in eight cities, select eBay online auctions and employee events.
Communications and Collateral Materials: Cone developed an extensive media strategy, press materials and conducted outreach to media in the four pilot markets. In order to encourage dealers to participate in the Matching Grant Program, Cone created a How-to Kit that outlined the components of Chevy R.O.C.K. and the Matching Grant Program in a simple, concise manner needed to capture the attention of busy dealers.
The program was a resounding success with a June 2001 decision to expand Chevy R.O.C.K. nationally:
Increased awareness and the number of S.A.V.E. chapters in the test markets and nationwide: 47 new S.A.V.E. chapters started in the pilot markets, 110 new S.A.V.E. chapters formed nationwide.
S.A.V.E. was able to reach more schools due to funds and resources from Chevy R.O.C.K. As a result, student membership nationwide increased 25 percent (81,000 total) from August 2000-May 2001.
Engaged dealers in the Chevy R.O.C.K. Matching Grant Program and deepened Chevrolet’s relationships with local dealers: More than 42 percent of the pilot market dealers participated in the Chevy R.O.C.K. Matching Grant Program, resulting in $174,000 in grants awarded to a wide range of local youth nonprofit organizations.
Raised awareness and secured media coverage for S.A.V.E. and Chevrolet’s good works: Cone secured 120+ media placements. 70 percent of the dealers conducted local media relations with Cone’s support and gained significant media coverage and visibility in their local communities.
Elevated the image of the local and national Chevrolet brand: Chevrolet conducted a post-pilot Dealer Survey to learn how dealers’ participation benefited dealerships and found that Chevy R.O.C.K.: enhanced dealer image; leveraged their “good works”; generated good will and publicity; and inspired employee pride. Local Chevrolet dealers and nonprofit grant recipients sent letters of gratitude and praise to Chevrolet General Marketing Manager, Kurt Ritter, for the Chevy R.O.C.K. initiative.
Inspired national expansion: Due to an overwhelmingly positive response from the dealers and strong results with S.A.V.E., Chevrolet expanded Chevy R.O.C.K. nationally for 2001-2002.