Marketing and Strategic Positioning

It's a simple equation, really. If you want to market the Boy Scouts to men and boys, a good bet is to align yourself with guy stuff: air shows, race cars, and baseball, for example.

The Jersey Shore Council's relationship with the chamber of commerce in helping support a huge air show put the Scouts' most recognizable symbol—the fleur-de-lis—on the front of the event's program for some 300,000 spectators to see. Furthermore, the council made money off the deal by selling ads for the programs.

The council also struck deals with a local Chevrolet dealership—which includes a pinewood derby(R) track on the showroom floor—and with the Lakewood Blueclaws (a minor league baseball team) for advertising in the outfield and a number of Scout nights throughout the season.

If fathers and sons are doing guy stuff together, the council figures, they're going to see the Boy Scouts' message.

The Jersey Shore Council's high profile at "guy" events—air shows, baseball games—puts the Boy Scouts' message squarely in front of the parents and boys the council is trying to draw.

"Overall, we just recognized that to keep pace with all the competition for youth activities, we need to be involved with events like that," said Frank Holman, council president.

One such event—the Race for Cub Scouting—drew some 500 children to the Blueclaws' stadium, despite a torrential downpour. Activities were set up under the bleachers, including a crowd favorite: archery.

"Not every boy can be a quarterback, but every kid can pull back a bow," Holman said. "Anybody can do it."

The venue itself was a success, Holman said. Even in the pouring rain, "every kid loves to go to a baseball stadium."

The Central Florida Council had great success years ago with a marketing campaign that identified the Scout uniform as the most effective symbol of the organization.

Now, council leaders have found something even more powerful in the public's eye: that uniform on a young boy.

The council's chief method of positioning itself in the community is a series of Golden Eagle dinners honoring local notables in the towns it serves, with crowds ranging from 100 to more than 1,000. The main course isn't as important as the strategically positioned Scouts at each event.

Clad in their uniforms and equipped with big smiles, Scouts welcome guests with thunderous applause as they enter the dinners—red-carpet style—and mill about with guests, shaking hands and letting donors see just who benefits from their gifts. They demonstrate Scout skills or simply answer questions from guests.

"Having boys involved in providing some exposure to Scouting has paid off for our program—not just financially but in connecting with the community as well," said Jeff Jonasen, the council's president-elect.

"Having boys involved in providing exposure to Scouting has paid off for our program . . . ."

Jeff Jonasen, president-elect,
Central Florida Council

"We rely upon a network of people who involve friends and associates. We find that personal contacts get more people to events more effectively than ads."

When it comes time to make that plea for support, it's typically a young Scout behind the microphone. "We don't have keynotes because people would rather see the kids do something instead," Jonasen said.