Aug 04, 2011 • By

The virtual outreach of basketball

We’re not shy about trying new things.

Whether it’s a new product category or a new way to market one of our many brands, innovation is everywhere at General Mills.

Our partnership with the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx during the current basketball season is definitely something new.

Call it “virtual outreach,” on two fronts.

The first part of our relationship with the Lynx involves our innovative Join My Village project, addressing the economic and educational needs of young girls and women in Malawi.

Video messages featuring Lynx players Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Candace Wiggins discussing Join My Village are broadcast on the scoreboard during home games this season. (You also can watch the video with Wiggins on the Lynx website.)

The players encourage fans to send text messages to make $10 donations – matched by the General Mills Foundation – and to visit to help “unlock” dollars to be contributed to the cause.

Join My Village is a natural fit for the Lynx because it promotes the development of strong girls and strong women, as Sarah Leeth, a corporate sales executive for the Lynx, explains in this audio clip.

The second aspect of our Lynx partnership is an exciting online initiative on

Launched July 25, “Lynx Move” is a six-week campaign to promote youth fitness and nutrition. Children who visit the website stay active through a series of weekly challenges and track their progress through a point system for prizes. Many of the participants are also involved in the program through the YMCA, but any child can take part online. General Mills provided recipes and nutrition information for the site.

The online aspect of the campaign creates the potential for thousands of kids throughout Minnesota to participate, even if they are not able to attend a Lynx game.

“For us, it’s a new channel of partnership opportunities, and I think the WNBA is paying attention to that as well,” says Leeth. “These community-based programs are a great fit for extending our reach beyond what’s happening in the arena. We’re really able to impact youth and help make a difference.”

“There’s potential to reach many more youth over a longer period of time through a digital project like this,” says Jeff Peterson, the director of Innovation and Strategy for the General Mills Foundation. “We’re excited about it as a test for what we could do down the road to support youth fitness and nutrition on a broader scale.”

Jeff told me that both Join My Village and Lynx Move provide us the opportunity to make a difference.

“It’s about our shared commitment to strong girls,” says Jeff. “Whether it’s a very global program like Join My Village or a very local program like Lynx Move, our shared commitment makes these tests with the Lynx worth doing.”

Speaking of strong women … As I write this, the Lynx have the best record in the WNBA, thanks to a strong lineup that includes rookie star Maya Moore, considered one of the best women’s college basketball players of all time (Maya’s in the photo at the top of this post).