On the 5th August 2010 thirty three miners were trapped 2,300ft (700 metres) underground inside the Copiapo gold and copper mine when the shaft they were drilling in collapsed. They were rescued 69 days later. After that amount of time, in near pitch blackness, the miners retinas needed protection from daylight. Jonathan Franklin, a journalist at a Chilean media agency was covering the news event. ACHS, the Chilean private health insurer, wanted to source some kind of eyewear protection for the miners when they surfaced. Franklin knew a contact at Oakley so recommended the US sunglasses manufacturer. Oakley donated 35 pairs of glasses. The Oakley radars offered 100% protection from the Sun’s UV rays. The miners wore them for a number of days after their rescue to slowly allow their eyes to adapt to life above ground. The Minister of Mining Laurence Golborne also wore one of the extra pairs as a sign of solidarity.
At the time CNBC maintained that in worldwide television impact alone, “Oakley garnered $41 million in equivalent advertising time”. CNBC also reported on a degree of cynicism on Twitter .” One person (@highlow) asks “Oakley is using the Chilean mine rescue as a marketing opportunity—poor taste or philanthropic move? Another (@idaspeeda) called it “the product placement of the year.”
On face value you could question Oakley’s motives, but it’s worth remembering that they were approached by the Chilean journalist and then donated them to the cause. They didn’t proactively PR the supply of the glasses. The opportunity was presented to them and they grasped it. Eric Smallwood, vice president of project management told CNBC at the time “It’s a goodwill gesture that will turn into mass amounts of exposure for Oakley in a positive manner”.
At the end of the day it was a win-win situation. Oakley helped save the eyes of 33 miners (a great product demonstration) and then benefited from the massive media attention from around the globe.