Building Community With Every Sip

Take your association's message to a product that many of your members use every day.

What's the great idea? Create a coffee sleeve promoting your association; see your name in Starbucks.

Who's doing it? Maine Library Association

What's involved? A warm cup of coffee and a good book is one of life's simple pleasures, and MLA President Sonja Plummer-Morgan found inspiration after spotting a coffee sleeve from an independent coffee shop in Coastal Maine.

With a new logo and a goal to raise recognition of members' libraries within their communities, MLA decided to stake out space on an item that many library patrons consume. The sleeves have the new MLA logo, website, and literary quotes about coffee. "We want to make coffee consumers aware of the Maine Library Association and its member libraries and affiliates, but we also certainly want to foster warm feelings about the product on which it is being placed," says Lisa Neal Shaw, MLA secretary.

MLA contacted BriteVision, the producer of the sleeves that sparked Plummer-Morgan's idea. Negotiating to do their own marketing cut costs by more than $3,000 but also meant more time promoting sleeves to neighborhood businesses. "[It's a] good thing because it gets us out networking with our libraries—an integral part of what our association is all about. It also allows us to network with community businesses … and independent coffee shops who work with our libraries throughout the state," says Neal Shaw.

So what about Starbucks? "We worked with Starbucks at both the state and corporate level to explain what we wanted to offer them and found them most receptive to the idea," says Neal Shaw. "It seemed like a win-win, as the Starbucks Foundation is very active in literacy programs in their communities, a passion obviously shared by Maine libraries."

What are people saying? Neal Shaw says that the sleeves made some people pause at first , but they quickly gained popularity among members. Participating businesses are excited because "we were offering a product to them that was on recycled material, that complemented their product, that didn't cost them anything, that had no call to action conflicting with their own business goals, and that was attractive and filled a customer need."

Neal Shaw says that the sleeves are also a chance for MLA to utilize its social networking channels to give sleeve locations, which in turn helps the businesses carrying them for an overall community benefit. She adds, "The networking aspect of this has been what has made it so very worthwhile. Often, our respective missions and members that we serve intersect regardless of our professions or organizations."