Social Media Marketing: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge brought awareness and humor to  Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, a very serious affliction, in 2014.

According to Netimperative, a digital consulting site, The ‘Ice Bucket challenge’ was started by Pete Frates, a baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS [in 2012]. On 30th July 2014 he challenged several Boston Red Sox players to the ice-bucket treatment to raise money and awareness for the condition […] The challenge works with a participant (either a volunteer or someone who has been challenged) [filming] themselves dumping a bucket of  ice water on their head. The [drenched individual] then challenges a friend to do the same in the name of ALS, within 24 hour and/or donate to the cause (Netimperative, 2014).

From a social media marketing standpoint, the Ice Bucket Challenge was successful and easily replicated  because of its originality and simplicity. Everyone has to access to water,ice, and a container to pour over themselves. And everyone could nominate a person they knew to carry out the same task . Carson also noted that the Ice Bucket Challenge created a compelling message due to its emotional resonance using humor (2014).Moreover, Carson noted that  another element that makes the task relatively simple to complete is the use of mobile phones. As more and more people have the ability to record and edit  [and share video] with their phones, that helps turn the call to join into something that sounds feasible for potential participants (2014).

Furthermore, While the call to action moved people to act, another reason the campaign was successful was because They’ve taken a disease which is not at all funny, and they’ve taken a cause that is not at all funny, but they’ve attached it to social behavior that’s hilarious (Carson, 2014). Moreover, the campaign’s play on individual egos turned a negative human trait into a positive social movement by essentially using friendly peer pressure to bring awareness to a serious disease by having people not take themselves too seriously to dump ice water over themselves.

Ice Bucket Challenge one-Sheeter

Finally, the fact that the ALS Association did not originally initiate the challenge didn’t hinder its success. Various celebrities participating and nominating each other brought increased publicity and a financial target for their charitable efforts: The ALS Association.

One precaution that ALS organizations had to consider in their strategy was the meaning behind the Ice Bucket Challenge itself. Carson noted that anytime you have a word of mouth marketing campaign where you’re turning over control of the brand message to individuals, you run the risk of losing control of the message. One example of this is the confusion as to whether the participants douse themselves or donate, or douse themselves and donate (2014). But the regardless of that distinction, the popularity of the challenge on multiple social media platforms helped the ALS Association raise over 70 million dollars.


N.A (2014.  Viral case study: How the ‘Ice Bucket challenge’ raised $15m in 3 weeks. Retrieved from

Carson, E. (2014).ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Why it worked and what social media marketers can learn. Retrieved from

Ice Bucket Challenge Infograhic. Retrieved from


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