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In its Post-Pandemic Return, Mattel’s ‘Party on the Pier’ Zeros in on Storytelling

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This marks the 23rd year Mattel has served as presenting sponsor of UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital’s sinlge-biggest fundraiser.

Mattel marked its 23rd year as presenting sponsor of “Party on the Pier,” UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital’s single largest fundraising event, hosted Nov. 6 at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier. The sold-out, in-person event raised more than $1.2 million in unrestricted funding to go toward research programs and serving critically ill children and their families. And from a planning standpoint, the team took on new considerations since the last live event in 2019.

“We really learned from the 2020 virtual event and the wonderful focus it took on storytelling and the true nature of giving back, so we upped that a bit in storytelling for this event, as well,” says Nancy Molenda, executive director-Mattel Children’s Foundation and corporate philanthropy at Mattel. “We worked with The Change Reaction (a direct support platform in L.A. dedicated to the working class) to teach kids the meaning of giving back.”

When attendees arrived at “Party on the Pier,” they received branded gift bags with materials about the event’s mission. Influencers and celebrities walked the blue carpet as they made their way in and took part in the event by posing for photos with fans during meet-and-greet sessions and even running midway games alongside Mattel volunteers.

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The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation sponsored a VIP tent and presented attendees with Dodgers baseball hats and messaging on the organization’s work in the community, while longtime partner Wolfgang Puck Catering provided a luncheon for guests and families. UCLA People-Animal Connection, which offers companionship to more than 1,000 critically ill children and adults per month, had its own station that brought therapy dogs for kids and attendees to pet and interact with.

The Play It Forward tent sponsored by the Goldhirsh-Yellin Foundation featured face painting, coloring activities from the Ronald McDonald House, photo ops from Mattel’s Monster High brand and performances by children’s music duo The BeatBuds. Nickelodeon characters roamed the pier, and classic carnival snacks like popcorn and ice cream were available for participants to enjoy.

Attendees and sponsors had complimentary access to the pier’s rides and could purchase tickets to play midway games that were specially stocked with Mattel prizes. Molenda says everyone was a winner, as participants came away with prizes such as Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels track sets and Fisher Price toys. Mattel set up a new area in partnership with The Change Reaction where kids could donate their toy prizes to be distributed among children at the hospital for the holidays, and in return for their generosity, the kids received a special thank-you gift.

While “Party on the Pier” is an annual legacy event in L.A. that the community looks forward to, Molenda says, social media plays a big role in spreading the word. This year’s event brought together more than 1,500 attendees. For 2023’s event, she says the team will research new trends to keep “Party on the Pier,” which has been taking place for more than two decades, fresh and engaging, leaning into the storytelling to draw more support for the cause.

“We will continue to move forward with new and inventive ways to share that story with kids and families about moments of giving back and even amplifying it more—what actually happens with the dollars that are donated,” Molenda says, “and focusing heavily on the children who were served by the hospital and able to be at the event because they’ve received such incredible care.” Agencies: 15|40 Productions, The Brand Agency.


Attendees could access the pier’s rides and purchase tickets to play midway games that were stocked with Mattel prizes.

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