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The Power of Influencers: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Giselle Bundchen. Martha Stewart. Ben Affleck. Rob Ford. Cristiano Ronaldo. Oprah. Mark Zuckerberg. Bill Gates.

What do they all have in common?

Apart from each being amongst the most successful celebrities in their industry, they have all participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. For this challenge, each nominated individual has twenty-four hours to complete the task of dumping a bucket of frigid ice water over his or her head while filming it so it can later be shared online. The alternative to dumping ice over your head is to make a donation in support of ALS research. Each nominee must also nominate three friends to complete the challenge within twenty-four hours.

As ridiculous as the challenge may sound, it has gone viral. With over 2.2 million mentions on Twitter, 1.2 million videos on Facebook, and over $15 million generated in funding this year (compared to the $1.7 million in 2013), ALS research has become a household topic. But why has this become the most successful ALS fundraising effort, raising more than $300,000 in Canada alone? Apart from the hot summer sun making the thought of dumping ice water over one’s head almost inviting, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has gained a lot of traction because of influencer support.

Influencers serve two important purposes:

  1. They spread awareness about an initiativeALS-1
  2. Their participation creates a ripple effect

With these two factors combined, influencers can propel engagement levels higher than any single marketing campaign can — and you do not even need celebrity endorsement. Influencers exist within every organization. These are your leaders and your colleagues, those who others admire and respect, that everyone turns to for advice, and that other employees enjoy engaging with.


At SoapBox, when we structure employee engagement initiatives, our first priority is to have executive buy-in. When top level management is actively participating in the initiative, that is the time we like to bring in the hidden influencers. These hidden influencers are what really drive the ripple effect. From when the executive team touches down on the “waters” of an initiative, the hidden influencers create and support the ripples that continually and pervasively expand until everyone in the organization has been touched by them. This is why these individuals are our favourite candidates to be our Idea Partners who run the backend of an initiative when we run an engagement and idea program.

When introducing a new initiative in your own organization, take a page from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and consider your own hidden influencers. The challenge has been such a success thanks to not only celebrity support, but also, the support of friends and family members that we respect and admire. Get your organization’s leadership on board and start recruiting some hidden influencers to really drive your participation and engagement levels. You won’t even need a bucket of ice water to do it!

Harness the power of employee ideas.