Toms Shoes is borrowing from the political playbook to promote the next chapter of its End Gun Violence Together campaign, which launched in November with a $5 million commitment to the cause.
On Wednesday, founder Blake Mycoskie will kick off the “End Gun Violence Together” cross-country tour at the one-for-one brand’s Santa Monica headquarters, which will culminate in a Feb. 5 rally in Washington, D.C.
The campaign-style tour will include stops in Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago, Pittsburgh and other cities, where brand reps will meet with gun violence activists in impacted communities (and presumably build awareness for Toms along with way). The journey will end with the delivery of more than 700,000 postcards to congressional representatives in Washington, written by users calling for stricter gun laws.
Mycoskie launched End Gun Violence Together in November, shortly after the mass shooting that killed 12 people in Thousand Oaks, Calif., not far from where he lives. Announcing the campaign on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” he pledged his company would be investing $5 million in organizations working to fight gun violence including Black and Brown Gun Violence Prevention Consortium; Everytown for Gun Safety; Faith in Action; Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence; Live Free; March for Our Lives; and Moms Demand Action. The Toms web site turned over its homepage to the initiative, and created a feature that let users write the postcards to representatives.
“It didn’t make sense to me, or anyone at Toms, to simply announce the next chapter of our End Gun Violence Together campaign with a press release or a social media post,” Mycoskie told WWD. “We knew we had to be loud and use every tool at our disposal to really amplify this message. We have to show the lawmakers of this country, by using their own playbook if need be, that we mean business and we demand real change in the gun violence epidemic in America. ”
A former contestant on the reality show “The Amazing Race,” Mycoskie launched Toms Shoes in L.A. in 2006, adapting Argentina’s traditional canvas alpargatas shoes to the U.S. market where they quickly found favor among Charlize Theron and other Hollywood stars. He created a one-for-one sales model combining commerce and charity, that donated a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair sold.
The company has since expanded to sunglasses (with contributions going to corrective eyewear and vision surgery), bags (supporting prenatal care) and coffee (with donations to clean water). Toms follows several other brands that have taken stands on gun violence, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Patagonia and REI, and the campaign speaks to the larger retail trend, as reflected in Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign, of corporate activism.