For much of his life, Patrick Downey was the perfect personification of the Converse brand. He was an artist who had developed his own unique, personal style—the crown jewel of which was his uniform of dark pants, flannel tops and Chuck Taylors. He wore it every day. And this is exactly how his family and friends remember him.
Patrick passed away in 2007 from a “secret” form of cancer—one that, unless you know someone afflicted with the disease, you rarely hear about: esophageal. During his fight, his sister Shannon Downey was training for a race to benefit breast cancer research. She admits that while Patrick was supportive of her efforts, “he was frustrated that there was so much awareness of breast cancer but not much for esophageal cancer.” So Shannon promised Patrick that she would help raise awareness about this disease and suggested that maybe, one day, there would be a "Patrick Downey 5K."
This coming Mother’s Day marks the Second Annual Patrick Downey 5K in Peabody, Mass. Runners are encouraged to wear flannel and Chuck Taylors (I’ll be wearing my flannel Chucks and a plaid running skirt). The suggested attire caught the eye of one runner: after she registered for the race she found Patrick and Shannon’s story and also became intrigued by the race’s official logo, which features a sneaker reminiscent of a Chuck Taylor. As it turns out, she works for Converse. And here begins the brand connection.
The runner contacted Shannon via the PD5K Facebook page to inquire about Converse sponsoring the race. She also connected Shannon with the VP of Finance at Converse. (I’d like to stop and give a shout-out to Converse here, because it obviously has a culture where an employee feels empowered to get the company involved in the community.) This all happened within days last week, and the folks at Converse already feel connected to this race. They’re inspired by Patrick’s connection to their brand, and the fact that his memory and this race are celebrations of individuality.
Converse’s involvement goes beyond the check ($5K for the 5K — which is an enormous amount for this small race with big goals); they are sending reps to the race with Chucks, and talking with Shannon about how they can contribute long-term to her important work of educating people about esophageal cancer.
Converse is their biggest sponsor to date; second is Belmont Springs, which is donating water for the race.
There are a few cause-marketing lessons here:
Last year, 160 runners ran the PD5K and Shannon raised $3,200 for the Esophageal Cancer Awareness Association. This year and beyond, the possibilities are endless, thanks to the help of Converse and its perfect sponsorship.