Ethan Hawke Stars in The Y’s New Community-Focused Campaign

'My Y Story' also features Allyson Felix and Marcus Samuelsson

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The Y (formerly the YMCA) is launching a new content series called “My Y Story” demonstrating the value of its various offerings to individuals and communities, featuring actor Ethan Hawke, Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix and celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson.

Catalyst Public Relations worked with The Y on the new “My Y Story” content series. The series is a further extension of the “For a Better Us” campaign launched in early 2016 with a pair of ads created by Droga5.

The Y previously extended the effort this past September with another spot from Droga5, “Us,” which Y-USA senior vice president, chief marketing officer Valerie Barker Waller said was “a way to connect with the cultural conversation and be sure that we could help people see how relevant The Y was, especially with what’s going on in the country.”

“We were seeing an increase in bullying [and] an increase in intolerance of new and different people. We were seeing an increase in social isolation, especially for seniors,” she added. ” … We’re an organization focused on making sure everyone feels like they’ve got a place and a voice, and we’re doing real work in communities to ensure that happens.”

“My Y Story” rolls out today with a teaser featuring Hawke, Felix and Samuelsson that will run on The Y’s social channels, as well as a dedicated campaign landing page. The campaign will soon expand with individual videos featuring their individual stories, beginning with one highlighting Felix on February 20.


“We think ‘My Y Story’ is a really interesting extension of the concept of ‘Us,’ but built on the bigger picture of what we mean by ‘ensuring that people know who we are, what we do and why it matters,'” Waller added. “As we thought of ways to amplify the work that we do, we ultimately determined that a content series allows us to tell individual stories that can drive broad impact.”

Waller explained that each of the celebrities was chosen “based on the unique aspects of their relationship with The Y.”

Growing up in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles, The Y was part of the daily routine for Felix and her brother. Samuelsson, by contrast, didn’t grow up with the organization, but now volunteers with the Harlem Y. Hawke has fond memories of going to The Y’s Camp Carter as a youth and now brings his children to The Y.

“We wanted to be sure we were presenting different ways that people connect with The Y, both as kids and adults, and as volunteers,” Waller explained.

The format seems to have potential for future expansion, and The Y hopes it can extend the series in the future.

“We know there are Y stories all over the country that we’d love to tell,” Waller said, adding that the organization will “continue to think about how we can extend this idea further” based on the reception to the launch.


@ErikDOster erik.oster@adweek.com Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.
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