Comic Relief is kicking off its third annual Red Nose Day fundraising campaign in the US in the lead up to Red Nose Day on Thursday, May 25. Already a three-decades-old charity telethon tradition in the UK, the US version of Red Nose Day aims to help end child poverty, one nose at a time.
Red Nose Day is all about bringing the nation together to have fun and make a difference for children in need – here in the US and around the world. Starting today (April 17), the campaign’s iconic Red Noses are available exclusively at Walgreens and Duane Reade stores nationwide, with all profits supporting the cause.
Throughout the six-week campaign, Americans of all ages can get in on the fun and support the cause by coming together with their “Noses On”, by organizing fundraising events, and watching and donating during the special night of TV on NBC. Funds raised support children in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, and some of the poorest communities in Africa, Latin America and Asia, through programs dedicated to keeping children and youth in need safe, healthy and educated. Fans can share how they’re celebrating and supporting this year on social media at @RedNoseDayUSA and by using the hashtags #RedNoseDay and #NosesOn.
While still relatively new in the US, the UK has wholly embraced the fundraising effort, especially since it gives people a chance to have fun while contributing to a great cause – because really, you can’t be fully serious when you’re wearing a puffy, red foam nose.
“I was in London for Red Nose Day (March 24), and there 60% of kids in school will do something, like wearing red or doing skits. You can’t miss it,” said Janet Scardino, chief executive of Comic Relief. “We’re taking the best practices in the UK – incredible partnerships, including our broadcast partner, NBC, and Walgreens – to fashion Red Nose Day here. We’d like it to become a national holiday of giving.”
In 1985, Comic Relief launched in the United Kingdom with the goal of using comedy to raise money and help those leading really tough lives. The first Red Nose Day was held in 1988, with over 30 million people participating in its first year. Red Nose Day launched in the US in 2015 and, with generous support from millions of Americans and many outstanding partners, has raised more than $60m in its first two years in the US and has name recognition with 60% of the general population.
A trifecta of charitable programming
Scardino hopes that this year will grow even bigger, especially since the campaign has expanded its reach beyond just a two-hour primetime special. This year, the show is three hours long on NBC covering three different franchises, airing 25 May.
The three-hour primetime block will both entertain viewers and give them an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of kids in need. “Celebrity Ninja Warrior for Red Nose Day” – the first ever celebrity edition of “American Ninja Warrior” which pairs celebrities with the warriors – will air at 8pm ET/PT.
During this hour, nine brave stars will tackle the course, all in the name of charity. Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila serve as hosts, along with Kristine Leahy who co-hosts. The celebrity ninjas include Stephen Amell (“Arrow”), Erika Christensen (“Parenthood”), Jeff Dye (“Better Late Than Never”), two-time Olympic gold medalist Ashton Eaton, Nikki Glaser ( “Not Safe with Nikki Glaser”), Derek Hough (“World of Dance”), Natalie Morales (“Today” and “Access Hollywood”) former New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher (“Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge”) and Mena Suvari (“American Woman”). Each of the celebrities will be paired with an elite ninja who serves as both coach and cheerleader – helping them prepare mentally and physically for their run.
Ninja will be followed by a special episode of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls for Red Nose Day” featuring Julia Roberts and Grylls venturing to Kenya to deliver vaccines at 9pm, leading up to NBC’s third annual “The Red Nose Day Special” hosted by Chris Hardwick at 10pm.
“Red Nose Day’s effort to lift children out of poverty is centered around heart and humanity, and we’re excited to create a night of programming that reflects this. From Julia Roberts and Bear Grylls showing viewers the impact of their donations, to celebrities challenging themselves on ‘American Ninja Warrior’ to raise funds and awareness, this will be an incredible night,” said Paul Telegdy, president, alternative and reality group, NBC Entertainment. “We are thrilled to have Chris' wit and compassion championing the evening as our host for 'The Red Nose Day Special’.”
Last year, said Scardino, there were over 100 celebrities involved in the show and there should be at least that many if not more, from comedians to A-list actors and musicians.
The special includes the much-anticipated “Red Nose Day Actually,” a short “Love Actually” reunion film from writer-director Richard Curtis, who is also the founder of Red Nose Day. This is the first time the night of programming for Red Nose Day has included special editions of existing NBC shows, which is evidence of the network’s deep partnership and commitment to the cause.
Created by award-winning writer-director Curtis, (Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill), Red Nose Day has raised more than $1bn globally since its launch in the UK in 1988.
Blue chip partners
Having active and willing partners helps the Red Nose Day cause. Scardino cited the efforts of NBC as a broadcast partner, Walgreens for prominently displaying and marketing the red noses, and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation for spreading the word and generating plenty of money for the cause.
“Lots of blue chips are part of the experience. Doing good in the world is good for business,” said Scardino, who added that many of the brand partners not only buy the noses and allow employees to wear them and post pictures, sometimes they launch special Red Nose Day products and specials, like Mars and M&M’s.
“It’s about joy and happiness…laughter and the fun factor. There is a lot of employee engagement at these companies. They make it a full day of fun, with picture contests, lip sync battles (with noses) and other fun events,” said Scardino. “The power of laughter can be a better gateway to (subjects like child hunger) than more serious efforts.”
Other of the 75-plus brand partners include Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, L’Oreal, Maybelline, Pfizer, Duracell, Orbit, and Starburst.
To help get the word out about the event, Red Nose Day is working with social media agency Epic Signal on social efforts, and Mekanism, Epic Signal's independent parent agency – and a company Scardino calls "an extension of our team" – on the creative.
You don’t have to work for a large company to be a part of the Red Nose Day festivities. In fact, just watching the specials and donating can be a great way to be a part of it, but it’s more fun when you don one of the noses.
“The experience starts with people walking into Walgreens and seeing the red noses. 8 million shoppers will see them in store, and this year you can order them in bulk,” said Scardino.
Many offices will encourage employees to organize events, like the group pictures, lip sync battles, rummage and bake sales, dress crazy day, or anything they can think up.
“It gives people a license to be creative. Somebody at an office will champion the cause and get people to join in. It’s so organic. It’s fun and disruptive, but for a good cause. That freedom of creativity is why people have embraced it. It brings people together. It’s a great team builder,” added Scardino, noting that she has even seen a picture of an airplane full of people all with the noses on.
Part of the appeal is that it uses humor to raise funds – at the intersection of joy, laughter, entertainment and a serious subject – making it fun and easy to give back.
“We use comedy to make a difference. We like to say that it’s a roller coaster of laughter and tears, spotlighting these kids who are leading tough lives all over the world,” she said, noting that the cause is something nearly everyone can get behind – helping kids in need.
In the UK, Red Nose Day is recognized by nearly 99% of the population. Scardino and the Comic Relief people hope to now reach everybody in the US and get everybody in the country involved.
“Red Nose Day makes sure kids have what they need and are not going without,” she stated.