Sobeys makes funding youth mental health a family affair

The grocery banner will launch a new campaign next week to support the biggest CSR push in its history.

Screen Shot 2020-08-28 at 8.56.49 AMSobeys is making child and youth mental health its biggest cause effort to date by partnering with 13 children’s hospital foundations, an effort buttressed by a mass ad campaign.  

Through the “A Family of Support” initiative, Sobeys and the Sobey Foundation have committed to donating and raising “millions” of dollars to supporting mental health programs being run at 13 children’s hospitals and healthcare facilities. There isn’t an exact goal being set at this point; Michael Vels, Sobeys’ EVP and CFO, said during a virtual announcement that this would be a long-term initiative that would see a significant investment.

“This will be, in fact, the broadest participation in a collective cause, that we have ever had in our company’s history,” according to Sandra Sanderson, senior VP marketing for Sobeys. While this is the first time the grocery banner is addressing this issue through a national push, she tells strategy that it builds on its other CSR pillars, which have been built around ensuring Canadians can have healthy bodies and healthy minds. That’s been done through donations to individual children’s hospitals, as well as partnerships with Special Olympics Canada, local food banks, meal networks and student nutrition programs, all which she says will continue.

Funds will be used to implement a diverse range of mental health programs to help more children and youth access the help they need. Canadians will also be able to donate to an in-store fundraising program, which will run from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1. and help the 13 children’s hospitals address different gaps and unique needs.

For example, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation will be using funds to help address a shortage of scientific knowledge when it comes to youth mental health, which has kept treatment and prevention strategies from advancing. SickKids will expand access to neurological assessments for children in its care, as 40% of children with a physical illness end up facing mental health challenges as well. Several others will be addressing the need for improved mental health services in emergency and crisis care, while both the CHEO Foundation and McMaster Children’s Hospital will be improving services for youth and teens with suicidal ideation.

The community investment has been in development for two years, as the brand considered ways it could have the greatest impact. It settled on a national program that could use its scale and reach to raise the most funds, but implemented through local community organizations to more directly address needs.

The associated creative, in market Sept. 2, cites figures showing that only one in five families get access to the mental health help they need for their children. The hero spot then shows a child, alone on a playground, who is then surrounded by a large number of supportive adults (created in part through CGI thanks to distancing protocols during production). The “traditional” family, Sobeys family and healthcare professionals forming circles around her illustrate how Sobeys is aiming to build a “Canada-wide circle of support.”

“We did a tremendous amount of research on this, testing out four different concepts,” Sanderson says, and the family circle of support proved to be most impactful, inspired by the company’s purpose of being “a family nurturing families.” It was an idea it also used in April in an ad positing that a family was any group of people who helped and nurtured each other and, by that definition,  made Canada “one big family” during the pandemic.

The awareness phase of the campaign is geared towards helping customers understand the partnership, through TV, online video, digital, social and print ads. Sobeys is also working closely with its institutional partners to communicate the message through their own channels to expand and amplify reach. Sanderson says the goal for this phase is to generate at least 200 million impressions.

This will be followed by the participation phase, with in store elements that include decals and large banners on the ceiling, staff t-shirts and other materials. All of Sobeys’ banners, including Safeway, IGA, Farm Boy, Foodland and FreshCo, will be participating.

FCB Canada handled creative for the campaign, with North Strategic on PR and UM on the media buy.