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Build an Adventure: Inside the BSA’s new campaign to recruit Scout families

Build-an-Adventure-2Today’s families have less free time than ever, and the BSA helps them make the most of the fleeting time they have to positively affect the lives of their children.

You know that. I know that.

Now it’s time to make sure all of America does, too.

Today marks the launch of Build an Adventure, the Boy Scouts of America’s new national recruiting campaign, which helps parents understand that Scouting provides quality time and irreplaceable experiences for families pulled in a million directions by work, school, sports, church and home.

“For parents, every minute with their kids matters, so they want to make the best decision on how their children’s time is spent outside of school,” says Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock. “Through the Build an Adventure campaign, we are demonstrating that choosing to put a child in Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts today is part of the foundation that can help him reach his full potential and become a successful adult.”

Build an Adventure shares that message through fliers, billboards, posters, yard signs, Web banners, e-blasts, PSAs, print ads, door hangers, postcards, bookmarks, peer-to-peer cards and social media images.

In other words: Councils have tools to reach families wherever they are.

For my money, the inviting and aspirational imagery of the Build an Adventure campaign is the BSA’s best yet. The print and Web materials include compelling visuals and a simple but powerful message. The TV spots, which you can watch below, beat any Super Bowl ads I’ve seen.

The campaign itself was designed for use in 2015, but in a nod to councils champing at the bit to use the new materials, the BSA released everything early for use this fall.

Build an Adventure’s core messages

  • Today’s parents are busy
    • They’re constantly pressured by the challenge to balance work and home. Even as they’re working harder than ever, it’s important to them to spend quality time with their children.
  • Youth today are spending less time outside and more time in front of screens
    • Parents are increasingly concerned that screen time is robbing their kids of real-world experiences. Scouting provides those experiences.
  • Scouting makes the most of the little time parents have to affect their children
    • For parents, every minute with their kids matters so they want to make the best decisions on how their children’s time is spent outside of school.
    • Making Scouting part of children’s lives gives them the chance to participate in a wide variety of fun adventures that parents are unlikely to provide on their own for their children on a routine basis.

Where to download the materials

Find everything related to Build an Adventure, including campaign guidelines, right here.

And learn more over at Scouting Newsroom.

Watch the new PSA videos

 

26 Comments on Build an Adventure: Inside the BSA’s new campaign to recruit Scout families

  1. MAJ Burnham // August 26, 2014 at 8:30 am // Reply

    I have looked at the linked materials, and I wonder if there’s a mixed message about Boy Scouting here. The materials say that youth is a time for boys to develop a strong foundation for adulthood, and they also say that Scouting offers parents time with their children that they may not experience otherwise.

    The second statement is certainly true for Cub Scouting, which is family-based. But this campaign does not differentiate Boy Scouting as a movement in which boys benefit from the Boy Scouting method of adult (not parent) association, while learning first to take care of themselves (by attaining the program’s goal rank of First Class) and then learning how to take care of others (by attempting the ranks leading to Eagle).

    In the last few months I’ve observed so much father-son interaction at troop meetings, weekend campouts, and summer camp (even parents dropping in for visits), that I am concerned that this troop’s parents see Boy Scouting as a family outdoor club. And this campaign does not communicate anything different from that.

    (As an assistant scoutmaster whose son recently transferred in, I am not in a position to encourage positive change.)

    • I guess I’m not seeing that same thing in the Boy Scout materials. Actually, I’m not seeing any adults at all in the Boy Scout materials.

      I think there is a difference between parent involvement in and support for the Boy Scout program (necessary) and parent interference in the Boy Scout program. Many parents have to be trained that Boy Scouts is not Cub Scouts, but most of them have an “Aha!” moment in the first few months and learn to restrain themselves from too much interaction. You want and need parents to get involved in the program, volunteer and register, and go on campouts and activities where they can not only help out, but can observe their kids and how the Boy Scouting program is helping them grow. One disadvantage that Boy Scouts has when compared to, say, youth sports programs is that things like hiking, camping, and pioneering are not spectator sports. Most Boy Scout moms and dads don’t get to stand on the sidelines cheering on their Scouts and watching them practice their skills. As with school, parents want to know how their kids are doing in Scouting — with the result that badges are like grades. To a parent who isn’t out there with the troop, the only sign that the Boy Scouting program is worthwhile are the checked-off requirements and badges awarded.

  2. I always find it interesting on how BSA is saying they are try to promote and improve Venturing. However, when they set out their new recruiting campaign it again focuses only on Cub scout Packs and Boy Scout troops. We place such high importance on these programs that we make it difficult to affect change even from within about the importance of Venturing or Varsity Teams. Changing advancement alone will not change perspective about a program or draw new people in. National must place all groups on an equal foundation and promote all groups equally in all our advertising and campaigns to gain membership in BSA programs.

    Just some food for thought.

  3. Alex Adkins // August 26, 2014 at 9:04 am // Reply

    Eventually, National is going to get the point: we are not experiencing a message problem. We are experiencing a program problem. This is not about what we say in slick advertising campaigns and marketing materials. This is about what we DO at the unit level. That is our main “tool” – the active and cohesive unit at ground level. We can’t continue to hope that a slick message will cover up weak unit experiences. After all, that is why people leave the program and/or fail to invite their friends in, namely that they did not receive what they thought they we promised. Continuing to over promise and under deliver will only exacerbate the issue.

    Here is what I propose (and I would have sent this to Dr. Gates already if the contact information for his personal assistant had ever been published as he said he would do):

    The Oil Spot Theory – Have councils identify their most successful units and the units that have the ability to become successful and start allocating council resources to them. Fortify our success stories. Protect them. Subsidize the cost of disadvantaged youth to participate in those units. Bring in national level training teams to train those unit volunteers or subsidize the cost to take them to PTC, including the charter org rep. When the unit becomes large enough, help facilitate a pre-planned, amicable unit split with a new charter org that has already been trained and prepped as well. Reward the original unit for spawning a new one. Like the oil drop on the concrete in the garage, we must grow from our strongest, densest points outward. Planting weak, paper ghost units and expending significant effort to recruit new Scouts to them is wasted effort. Let’s put our best foot forward…..FIRST.

    The Messenger is Just As Important As The Message – Everyone, I mean everyone, has a general idea of what Scouting stands for. The recent membership debacle did not damage that aspect of our organization so much as inculcate the idea that Scouting is fractured and faceless. Scouting needs a face, a hero, a modern day Baden Powell who people can see more than hear. The position of Chief Scout (not to be confused with Chief Scout Executive) has been dormant for decades. Other countries utilize this position to give the public an example of what their program can produce. We don’t. We should. There is a man that could be this example – his name is Mike Rowe.

    The Veterans Among Us – Just briefly, consider this: Our nation has been in a constant state of open warfare for well over a decade. Hundreds of thousands of men and women who are inured to personal sacrifice have returned home after honorable service to our nation. They could write volumes on what it means to have character, courage, and charity. What have we done as a movement to engage them? What have we done to introduce our youth to the greatest ALL VOLUNTEER generation? Why don’t we have an answer?

    There is more. But for now, it is enough to know that we cannot continue in “analysis paralysis” of market research and reactive advertising. We don’t need a new sales pitch. We need to go BACK to the beginning and look at how we grew this thing iin the first place. Let’s GO!

    • Alex wrote: “This is about what we DO at the unit level. That is our main “tool” – the active and cohesive unit at ground level. We can’t continue to hope that a slick message will cover up weak unit experiences. After all, that is why people leave the program and/or fail to invite their friends in, namely that they did not receive what they thought they we promised.”

      I absolutely agree with this. The biggest problem we have is that we have far too many units who can’t or won’t do the things that are pictured in the glossy fliers and slick videos. We actively promote creation of weak units, we have no standardization of many routine, universal unit processes, and we have no way to require units to adopt good practices and stop bad practices.

  4. Alex Adkins // August 26, 2014 at 9:57 am // Reply

    Eventually, National is going to get the point: we are not experiencing a message problem. We are experiencing a program problem. This is not about what we say in slick advertising campaigns and marketing materials. This is about what we DO at the unit level. That is our main “tool” – the active and cohesive unit at ground level. We can’t continue to hope that a slick message will cover up weak unit experiences. After all, that is why people leave the program and/or fail to invite their friends in, namely that they did not receive what they thought they we promised. Continuing to over promise and under deliver will only exacerbate the issue.

    Here is what I propose (and I would have sent this to Dr. Gates already if the contact information for his personal assistant had ever been published as he said he would do):

    The Oil Spot Theory – Have councils identify their most successful units and the units that have the ability to become successful and start allocating council resources to them. Fortify our success stories. Protect them. Subsidize the cost of disadvantaged youth to participate in those units. Bring in national level training teams to train those unit volunteers or subsidize the cost to take them to PTC, including the charter org rep. When the unit becomes large enough, help facilitate a pre-planned, amicable unit split with a new charter org that has already been trained and prepped as well. Reward the original unit for spawning a new one. Like the oil drop on the concrete in the garage, we must grow from our strongest, densest points outward. Planting weak, paper ghost units and expending significant effort to recruit new Scouts to them is wasted effort. Let’s put our best foot forward…..FIRST.

    The Messenger is Just As Important As The Message – Everyone, I mean everyone, has a general idea of what Scouting stands for. The recent membership debacle did not damage that aspect of our organization so much as inculcate the idea that Scouting is fractured and faceless. Scouting needs a face, a hero, a modern day Baden Powell who people can see more than hear. The position of Chief Scout (not to be confused with Chief Scout Executive) has been dormant for decades. Other countries utilize this position to give the public an example of what their program can produce. We don’t. We should. There is a man that could be this example – his name is Mike Rowe.

    The Veterans Among Us – Just briefly, consider this: Our nation has been in a constant state of open warfare for well over a decade. Hundreds of thousands of men and women who are inured to personal sacrifice have returned home after honorable service to our nation. They could write volumes on what it means to have character, courage, and charity. What have we done as a movement to engage them? What have we done to introduce our youth to the greatest ALL VOLUNTEER generation? Why don’t we have an answer?

    There is more. But for now, it is enough to know that we cannot continue in “analysis paralysis” of market research and reactive advertising. We don’t need a new sales pitch. We need to go BACK to the beginning and look at how we grew this thing iin the first place. Let’s GO!

    • Focusing all of your resources on one unit does not help any other existing units. Our area has 3 Cub units. One is dying for lack of leadership, one has leadership but is struggling because of recruiting, and the third has little leadership but is putting out scouting information and setting up recruiting just for them. How many boys will be lost because this one unit is attempting what is essentially a power takeover? They want to be the biggest, best pack in our district. I have heard from parents who have left them. They feel the program is poor, they don’t have the proper leadership, and fund-raising is a major part of the unit activities. Several of the ranks, Bears & Wolves, have been combined as they cannot get leaders to separate them. Some of these families have left Scouting all together as this has left a bad taste in their mouth.

      The number one thing you must have to start a new unit is leadership. You get the leaders in place, get your program in place, and then you get the boys. You cannot get a glass of water if you do not have a glass. From there, all units need to be helped, guided, and trained to keep their units going. Some boys cannot go to a meeting on Thursday so you send them to a unit that meets on Tuesday. Some boys live closer to this unit than to that one and it is easier to go there. Some boys have a friend in one unit and wants to join his friend. Many, many boys will be lost if you focus on growing just one unit. What happens to this new unit once it splits? Does the focus shift to them? If so, what happens to the old unit? Are they now left to their own devices since they have done their job at being the “teacher’s pet”, and spawned a new unit? All units need to be given help in the areas they need it the most. All units should be included in recruiting drives and training sessions. “Slick” advertising gets the attention of kids and parents alike but nothing beats one kid saying to another “Hey, why don’t you come to Scouts with me?”

      • Take a second look at what I wrote: the focus should be on successful units and those likely to be successful, not one unit. Trained leadership is a requirement for unit success, not a result of it.

        Look at the initiative described in the article – if things are as bad as you say in unit #3, what good will it do to simply attract more people to a failing unit? If the charter org can’t find leaders on it’s own, it’s doomed.

        Unit # 2? Why not funnel folks dissatisfied with unit # 1 and 3 to them? Or better yet, why not ask if they could meet with unit #3 and consider a merge?

        Unit # 3 ? You and I probably differ in the fact that I view a unit that “wants to be the biggest and best” as an innately GOOD THING. And, what you describe as a “power play” is probably what I would call a drive for excellence. According to you, they aren’t there yet but it sounds like they are on their way. Why not support them, help them with their program by training their entry level volunteers, the Den Leaders, utilizing the best trainers we can find?

      • The first thing we have to do is chuck the notion that _every_ unit should have perpetual existence and that it is a disaster when a unit folds. The real disaster is when poor, barely functioning units are allowed to continue on year after year, creating a reputation for Scouting that will hurt us twenty years from now when the Scouts who suffered through an inferior unit program have kids of their own.

        Every unit should have to justify its existence every year at recharter time by earning a Journey to Excellence Bronze rating or above AND getting a favorable review from the Commissioner. If not, it should have six months to either get its act together or get its affairs in order (including relocating its Scouts).

    • VA Scoutmaster // August 26, 2014 at 1:49 pm // Reply

      Invariably some will look at virtually anything produced by National and then post something along the lines of “National does nothing to promote [insert their personal agenda here], therefore this latest tool is further evidence that National does not love me.” Grow up. Don’t like the materials? Don’t use them — your loss. It wasn’t that long ago that people were complaining that National did not produce decent marketing tools for units to use. Now they have more (free!) stuff on their web site than most units will likely ever use. And it’s high-production value stuff with messages that strategically reach out to target audiences. I can’t wait to use them at our next recruiting event (it’s at a mall and action videos suck in the youth like nothing else). My son’s response to the videos? “Whoa, that’s cool. I gotta tell Bobby [his patrol leader] that we gotta do model rockets.”

      • Alex Adkins // August 26, 2014 at 3:32 pm // Reply

        Yep, that would be a good tool to ward off any and all criticism, wouldn’t it? But, let’s agree right off the bat that you and I both have the best interest of the organization at heart, even if we differ in our opinions on how that works. Let’s further agree that money is a finite resource for the organization now, more than ever. So, is it logical to be critical in how we spend funds? Of course. Is it ok to say “If you don’t like it, don’t use it?” No, because the funds are spent either way. We have no choice in that regard. It’s never “free”. There is always a cost, in this case it’s an opportunity cost. The money used on this project is no longer available for anything else, like say the debt service on Bechtel. So the best thing we can do is offer an opinion.
        Second, you and I are both in the Southern region (if your moniker is still valid). You and I both know that the 23% projected reduction in membership after “The Vote (™)” was actually a bit conservative and some councils are in a real pickle there and with fundraising.
        The time for passive, broad strokes advertising campaigns has come and gone. No matter what your political or religious beliefs, “The Vote(™)” generated more negative PR than National can ever mitigate with stuff like this.
        We need to get in the trenches with our units and make good choices about how we focus our efforts.
        We don’t need videos. We need solid units in every district that can weather this storm and re-plant for future harvest.

  5. Can these videos be downloaded? I’d like to show them at Join Scouting Night that our troop is hosting on Thursday.

    • Bryan Wendell // August 26, 2014 at 10:23 am // Reply

      Yes. Go here and click on PSAs (under either Cub Scouting or Boy Scouting).

      You’ll find the download link below each video.

      • Can we include these videos on our individual pack’s website? Are there any rules/restrictions regarding this? Thanks!

        • You can directly imbed the YouTube post into Facebook, a webpage, etc. This wording is on the video: ” Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)”

  6. Looking at the supporting materials, see that list of adventure – and Scouting fun-related phrases on the side? Not that many years ago, that would have been the Scout Oath and Law and the campaign would have been yet another boring initiative all about building character. As the saying goes, “No boy ever joined Scouting to have his character built.” Baden-Powell knew that instinctively, and he knew that action and adventure were the things that attracted boys (which is true today in boys’ choices of video entertainment). I am pleased that BSA has RE-learned this truth, at least for now.

    • Meanwhile, the Guide to Safe Scouting prohibits pioneering projects higher than 5 feet, and has removed the possibility of unsupervised patrol overnighters (once a benchmark of a quality Scouting experience), and the Shooting Sports Committee has banned breath-powered marshmallow guns and the shooting of anything bigger than the “opening of a small juice can” from catapults (what a dumb unit of measure).
      The marketing might be adventure, but the message is increasingly less adventure.

  7. Minds really think alike!! Last year we changed our MBA words from Merit Badge Academy to Merit Badge Adventure. This year we naming our Midway theme ‘Troop Adventure’.

    ScOUTING is about AdVENTURE…*winka

  8. Every time I get to speak to Scout leaders or (ordinary) parents I remind them that if they don’t have a connection with their son at age 10, 11, 12 they won’t have any connection at age 18, 19. Scouting does that. It is the gang the boy wants to belong to. It is the adventure he seeks. It is the moral compass we seek to teach him, taught early on, before the need for legal sanctions are needed.
    As a f’rinstance, responsible drinking is taught. It can be taught at home, by example, by parental counsel, or it can be taught by punishment. Sure, the “Signal Thirty” type movies at school might help, but how many of us remember watching and thinking, “uh-huh, suuuurrrre”, Yes, I know that alcoholism has a genetic component, but if everyone drank “responsibly”, moderately, there would be no need for DUI laws.
    I was listening to Diane Rehm this morning. She was discussing with three college people the problems with fraternities and sororities: sexual assaults, alcoholism, unneeded and dangerous and humiliating hazing. It occurred to me that the problem was not so much with the unregulated, uncontrolled fraternities (“the colleges need to discipline, etc.”) as it was with the young men and women who had had no real ethical upbringing, no youthful trial at being “in charge”, at being “trusted” , at perhaps seeing respect for the other gender demonstrated by parents, Scoutmasters, TV shows (I only watched “American Dad ” once), teachers, who made it clear what advances society and what hinders it.
    Scouting can do that. And we do Scouting a great disservice by not being proud of it , enough to wear a Scout cap, a Scout belt, a Scout T-shirt, to start the conversation even when not in a Scouty activity.

    These PSA’s , I’d like to know where they might be shown, what regular broadcast TV station would show them in prime time, not 6am sunday morning. When was the last time you saw ANY PSA during a football game or primetime news? Beer is important, not preventing juvenile delinquency.

  9. Martin Church // August 26, 2014 at 7:53 pm // Reply

    My question is does national understand today’s youth. for instance launching rockets is nice but I thought I was watching a promo for cubs. Where is the adventure, the wonder the opportunity to expand what a scout can do. White Water rafting, mountain climbing, Scuba diving, hiking, camping. I did not see any of this. Just another boring presentation like FOS presentation.

    • It’s the STEM obsession, which is antithetical to Scouting in the first place.

      • Cubmaster Association // September 3, 2014 at 11:12 am // Reply

        Stem is antithetical to Scouting? While saying Scouting may be more MINT than STEM could be argued, Scouting was STEM before STEM was cool. Look at the Merit badges, Webelo Scout requirements, even the Cub Requirements… Science, Technology, Engineering, and if done correctly MATH!!! MINT and STEM should be embraced. My Pack has embraced both and has exploded. We doubled our numbers last year, and are on track to almost double again this year. Let me share a prime example of STEM in action: My boys had to build a catapult for Engineering activity badge. Instead of letting them build a simple clothes pin catapult that every “get it done quick” pack might builds, we went STEM and had them build an actual torsion catapult (to 1/16 scale of course). They had to do the math on the best point to stop the arm, how beefy the structure had to be so it didn’t break, and what the proper weight should be for the launch item… It item they launched cleared my pool and we had them hooked. While learning they also had a blast. Within the next 2 weeks of that project we had 4 new Webelos just from word of mouth.

        The old guard has to get it through there head that they are competing with a million different activities out there now, and you have to constantly engage the boys. My experience has been that pack activities are very different from Pack to Pack and Troop to Troop. The issue is not the message. I would go as far as to say it’s also not the messenger either… It’s the lack of support, and guidance. I have met new Cub Masters who have no idea of what they are doing, and district and Council simply tells them to do fast start training. There is really no straight forward way to get “best practices” for Cub Scouts. Before anyone says Roundtables… They have become useless for Cub Masters. At the August Roundtable for our council, when Join Scouting Night was attempted to be discussed, my Assistant Cub Master and Den Leaders where told that it was “a waste of time and Join Scouting night doesn’t work” by a District Commissioner. This is not support, and is not helping the program.

        As for your statement, ” It’s the STEM obsession, which is antithetical to Scouting in the first place.” STEM is a reality and great way to engage today’s youth. It is only “antithetical to Scouting” because some still chose to make it that way.

      • Animal Science, Astronomy, Bird Study, Cycling, Environmental Science, Fire Safety, First Aid, Fish and Wildlife Management, Forestry, Gardening, Geology, Insect Study, Mammal Study, Medicine, Nature, Oceanography, Orienteering, Pioneering, Plant Science, Public Health, Reptile and Amphibian Study, Rifle Shooting, Scuba Diving, Search and Rescue, Shotgun Shooting, Small Boat Sailing, Signs Signals and Codes, Snow Sports, Surveying, Swimming, Veterinary Medicine, Water Sports, Weather, Whitewater, Wilderness Survival, Wood Carving.

        I’m sure I missed several, but these merit badges all relate to “core” aspects of Scouting (nature, outdoor sports, preparedness), and all involve the application of science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics.

        Where do you draw the line and say X is related to Scouting but Y is not? And what is the reasoning behind drawing that line there? BSA is saying that we have to go where the kids are or risk disappearing. Are we willing to put “Scouting” in a box and say, “These are the limits of what Scouting is and does, and we’re not going to step outside these limits”?

  10. What’s present: the patrol method. Gotta love it.
    What’s missing? The senior youth (Den Chief, SPL, and Venturer) mentors.

    Scouting stopping at 13 is not a healthy vision.

    • Youth in charge is scary!

  11. No offence to the hard working folks in BSA’s PR division, but I think the videos by UKScoutAssociation beat all hands down. Here’s one particularly geared toward parents ….

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