Monday, February 8, 2016

Dolls as more than role models (Sudafed Edition)

Mattel, amid a splashy announcement of new, more anatomically responsible Barbie dolls, introduced a Barbie doll modeled after soccer superstar Abby Wambach last week.

Abby Wambach (at  left), by Harvardton (Own work)
 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Most media in western New York -- Wambach's hometown is suburban Rochester -- gushed over the big toymaker's announcement. Picking up on Wambach's Twitter posts, reporters marveled at Mattel's recognition of her sports accomplishments by creating an Abby doll. 

Not one reporter, however, asked if Mattel's celebration of Wambach would include some corporate support of U.S. Women's Soccer, the team her heroics helped build.

It's a fair question. At least as viewed through my current Sudafed-affected head congestion. One an insightful reporter should have asked, but apparently didn't.

In fact, Mattel's corporate philanthropy track record speaks well of its support of play, both active and passive. Its philanthropy web pages, while a couple of years out of date, highlight many contributions and grants to a variety of programs and hospitals supporting the needs of children. Including $13 million in cash and $8 million in retail value of toys, in 2013.

As a two-time Olympic champion and 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year, the recently retired Wambach is more than a role model for girls and young women. She's now an influencer. And getting her likeness on a Wheaties box or a Barbie doll is strong evidence of her impact on women's soccer. It also represents an opportunity to leverage attention toward the struggles of the U.S. Women's Soccer team, which now must grow its brand without Abby.

A cause marketing pledge from Mattel -- say, 15% of profits from sales of Abby Barbies going to support her former team, now locked in a labor dispute with U.S. Soccer -- would have more impact than simply marketing a doll in a white No. 20 jersey.

(Note: my nagging sinus malady is receding, and I will be back to full throttle soon. Thank you.)