"Desperately seeking chemical engineers and scientists." That message is probably thumbtacked -- figuratively -- on every chemical company's front door. Everyone knows the United States is nowhere near the rest of the developed -- and a lot of the somewhat-developed -- world when it comes to the number of kids going into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. The pipeline is dryer than a garden hose in Phoenix. To make matters worse for companies like Chevron, ExxonMobile, BP and the other members of today’s “Seven Sisters,” Houston isn’t as sexy as Silicon Valley.
Nothing new there. Even in the late 90's, a common leitmotif at chemical industry forums was "how can we get kids interested in chemical engineering?" Today's immigration rules are making the talent drought drier.
Chevron has been trying to change that with its ongoing partnership with the U.S. Golf Association that includes a “Chevron Stem Zone” grassroots venue for kids at U.S.G.A. events, video vignettes and ads, and academic STEM tools for teachers. The company is extending the program next week with a new raft of ads and a new grassroots effort around the U.S. Open at Merion, Penn., starting on Monday.
"We have a neat little deal," says Glenn Weckerlin, global director of brand and product line management at Chevron, who helped put the Chevron Stem Zone program together. "The initial term [with the U.S.G.A.] is a three-year deal through next year. And It's all based around education.” He says STEM is a good fit for Chevron. “If you are investing in cause marketing, it’s nice to have something in which you have credibility and a vested interest, and we have both. The upside is huge, no matter how you look at it. There are four countries worse than the U.S. in math scores."
Chevron Stem Zone will be at the U.S. Open Experience at Independence Mall in Philadelphia. Three new educational TV ads will run on the Golf Channel and NBC. As in prior executions. kids watching a golf game talk about the science they see when others see a ball. This time kids are with their dads on the course; while the fathers talk technique, the kids are thinking science. "The U.S. Open is around Father's Day, so we are kind of talking advantage of that," says Weckerlin.
There are also 10 videos around science and golf on the Golf Channel integrated into game coverage. They are also on GolfChannel.com and at ChevronStemZone.com.
Weckerlin says integration is better than advertising for this program. "It’s huge for me; I’m a big proponent of more bang for the buck, and we get that running in program [versus ad pods]."
The vignettes, narrated by NBC sportscaster Dan Hicks, are also available to schools with a lesson plan tied to national standards.
Weckerlin says golf is a good tactical choice, demographically. "We picked golf because of the corporate target audience -- influencers and the energy elite. But the benefits are going to grassroots," he says.
The company is taking the STEM program to other sports, including events with teams like The Oakland A’s, and San Francisco teams the Giants and 49ers, per Weckerlin.