Cox Communications Baton Rouge is the recipient of this year’s ESPN Good Sports Award for its “Football, Food and Families” program. The award is annually given to a project generating outstanding community involvement through education and athletics. As its sponsor, ESPN hopes this award encourages cable operators to promote teamwork, sportsmanship and education in their community- affairs programs.
After analyzing the needs of the community, the Cox Baton Rouge Public Affairs team created the unique initiative to encourage community service among disengaged high school students; fulfill a community need to feed the hungry; and utilize a blend of Cox products to accomplish the goals.
Football, Food and Families was designed to effect change through the power of Cox Cable Television, Cox High-Speed Internet and the Cox4 Game of the Week — all leading sources of information and entertainment for young adults. Messages and tones of the campaign were developed through interaction with students, educators and parents.
In the months leading up to the 2005 high school football season, Cox worked with local students and faculty, the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and DeAngelo’s Pizzeria Company, a local franchise, to leverage the excitement of high school football into increased community participation in the effort to “Kick Hunger.” According to America’s Second Harvest, Football, Food and Families was the first campaign of its kind in the country.
The campaign was launched at an August 4, 2005, luncheon, which included the principals of the 17 schools participating in the Cox4 Game of the Week, school superintendents of five parish (county) school systems, the executive director of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, the President and CEO of DeAngelo’s and officials from Cox Baton Rouge.
Schools of the teams featured on the Cox4 Game of the Week also competed to see which one could collect the most food. The week before the game, the Food Bank brought special barrels to each school, retrieved the full barrels on the game day and tallied the number of pounds each school collected. A representative from each school appeared on the live Cox4 Tailgate Show, Cox’s 30-minute pregame show, to announce the winner and the amount of food each school collected. DeAngelo’s, Cox’s corporate partner, hosted a pizza party for each school’s winning class. To include fans, anyone who brought nonperishable food items to a regular-season game was eligible to kick a 25 yard field goal and win a year of free Cox Digital Cable and High Speed Internet.
The Cox team designed Football, Food and Families signs, banners, table tents and barrel wraps. Clerks at each Cox lobby distributed Football, Food and Families schedule cards and collected donations. Throughout the 2005 football season, DeAngelo’s locations, which also served as collection points for nonperishable food items, distributed schedule cards and promoted the campaign by offering a discount when the cards were presented. The Cox team also developed a one-stop Web site for information and a TV commercial that featured local high school students.
Over the course of the program, the Food Bank collected over 32,000 pounds of food. Football, Food and Families represented the first time the local Food Bank had conducted a food drive during this time of the year. According to Mike Manning, executive director of the Food Bank, “Through kicking off the campaign with a jointly hosted luncheon for school administrators, extensive coverage on the Cox4 Tailgate Show focusing on the students’ accomplishments, and the aggressive advertising campaign with competing high schools represented by their best and brightest students, Cox demonstrated a dedication to education, our schools, our youth and the fight against hunger in our community.”