Actor and activist Matt Damon talking about clean water.
Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones advocating for swimming lessons through Make A Splash in the U.S.
Olympic kayaker Luuka Jones and professional surfer Matt Hewitt promoting jet ski safety in New Zealand.
Just a few of the high profile public figures that are using their star power to launch campaigns about water safety. Does it make a difference? Should we be using actors, athletes and public figures to raise awareness about child safety issues, particularly water safety and child drowning? Is it smart social marketing or just a ‘feel good – all hail the egos’ idea?
Engaging high profile public figures isn’t just a good idea, it is absolutely critical to raising awareness and changing behavior. Why? Pretty simple really, we are fascinated with celebrities. We watch their every move (People magazine is the 8th most popular magazine in the U.S.), we want to be like them (how many sports team shirts does your child have?), and we love it when they do us proud and have fun, like the U.S. Olympic swim team on YouTube (9.8m views).
Still skeptical about the power of celebrity to raise awareness and bring about real change on serious issues? Bono and AIDS. George Clooney and Darfur. Lady Gaga and Bullying. Not On Our Watch, dedicated to protecting and assisting the vulnerable, marginalized and displaced with a truly swoon-worthy list of founders. How do they do it? Social media. Traditional media. Networking. Forcing tough issues onto the global stage. But more than anything, positively and effectively using the influence that we have bestowed upon them by virtue of their talent and incredible star power.
But where is the celebrity talking about child drowning? It’s CHILDREN people! I’d have to put children firmly in the ‘vulnerable’ and ‘marginalized’ category, especially in the countries where drowning rates are the highest. And child drowning IS an epidemic, a real, honest-to-goodness epidemic that is steadily becoming a larger proportion of all causes of child death. According to UNICEF, drowning is responsible for as many as one out of every four deaths in childhood, after infancy. We have the stats, we need to use them to woo our champion.
We have a lot of dedicated people working on the issue around the world, but until we get a Bono, George Clooney, Lady Gaga, the Duchess of Cambridge or Hillary Clinton talking specifically about child drowning, we are just treading water.