The Ice Bucket Challenge

January 01, 1970 by Leela Bozonelis

The ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ craze has seen millions of people, from A-Class celebrities to a former President of the United States, posting videos of themselves pouring a bucket of ice water over their heads online.


This phenomenon is to raise awareness of ALS. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as ‘Motor Neurone Disease’, is a neurodegenerative disease currently affecting around 5000 people in the UK and 30,000 people in the U.S. ALS has a survival rate of just 39 months from onset to death. Although in some cases there is a genetic cause for developing ALS, around 90% of those who suffer with the disease develop it for reasons that remain unknown. With no cure and only moderate management and palliative care available there seems to be little hope for those diagnosed.

Although the origin is uncertain, the Ice Bucket Challenge was meant to raise awareness of ALS and encourage people to donate to charity. Support for ALS charities has certainly increased, with a number of celebrities donating large sums of money. In the U.S., the ALS Association has reported a total of £55 million since the craze hit and UK based charity Motor Neurone Disease Association reported donations of £2million.

While the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral within a short space of time, a recent survey has suggested more than half of those who participated in the challenge did not donate to charity. More surprisingly, 53% of participants claimed that they did not know what cause they were supposed to be supporting. Of those who did donate to a relevant charity, only 3% donated more than £10.

Using Nexis Analyser, the media profile of ALS can be compared to the profile of the phrase ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ to see if media coverage of the disease has increased.

  • The media profile of the phrase ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ alone peaked in the last weeks of August.
  • The media profile of ALS alone showed no change at all over the two months since the craze hit social media across the world.
  • The media profile of the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ including reference to ALS barely increased at all.

ALSThe main point of interest was almost wholly focused on the social media stunt, forgetting the message of the charity it was supposed to support.

This Nexis Analyser research shows that, although the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised awareness of ALS - as evidently proved by the soaring donations being received - it has not prompted the traditional media to report on ALS as an independent subject worthy of media profile. While ice bucket challenges continue to clog up social media outlets, traditional media has moved on. Whereas a journalist can control the conversation, individuals can continue to prolong the conversation as well as becoming an integral part of a social community. It would seem that social media has a far longer life span for ‘stunt’ crazes whereas the media cycle for any craze in traditional reporting has a defined, and much shorter, lifespan.

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