Launched in 2002 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, VERB was a ‘for-kids-by-kids’ multicultural campaign aimed at increasing and maintaining physical activity among children in the US aged 9 to 13 (tweens). Research conducted to help guide the creation of the program included an extensive literature review, desk reviews of other campaigns with similar goals, and audience research via focus groups, interviews, and ethnographic inquiries. Broken into four phases, VERB’s unifying concept was ‘Free tweens to play out their dreams’. Each phase had its own message platform and communication strategy that tied back to the initial campaign concept and worked to decrease the audience’s barriers to physical activities while simultaneously promoting benefits by framing messaging in a way that resonated with the attitudes and beliefs held by tweens. VERB relied heavily on various forms of marketing for promotion, airing commercials on age-appropriate television and radio channels, placing print adverts in youth publications, and recruiting media partners to produce VERB Public Service Announcements featuring well known celebrities and cartoon characters, and/or sponsor VERB contests and sweepstakes. Partnerships with schools provided another avenue for connecting with tweens, and as a result, VERB created and distributed in-school materials and turnkey kits for educators that incorporated physical activity into the classroom. VERB sponsorship and participation in existing community events, use of “street teams”, and a national mobile tour also helped leverage brand affinity and provide additional opportunities for tweens to interact with the campaign. A website designed exclusively for tweens provided a way for participants to report on engagement in physical activities, blog about their experience, search for nearby playgrounds and recreational activities to try, and create virtual characters that could explore a virtual playground and learn about different games and fitness activities to try in real life. Cohorts of tweens and parents were interviewed annually via the Youth Media Campaign Longitudinal Survey (YMCLS) concerning their physical activity, related beliefs, and behaviors. After one year, tweens' unprompted awareness of VERB was 17% and prompted awareness was 57%. In years two and three, 61% of tweens aware of the program reported physical activity on the previous day and, on average, engaged in 3.9 weekly sessions of free-time activity.

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Expertise in Community-Based Social Marketing