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by Matt Alderton | February 04, 2016
Thanks to his support for causes such as fighting world hunger and AIDS, Bono is known just as much for his advocacy as he is for his art. Next to his songs and social stumping, however, what people recognize most about the U2 frontman is his signature look. In particular, his omnipresent sunglasses, which for more than 20 years have been the butt of innumerable eyewear jokes like this one tweeted by comedian Kumail Nanjiani in March 2014: "Hey Bono if you turned off those huge light bulbs behind you you wouldn't need to wear sunglasses indoors."

What few people realize, however, is that Bono's sunglasses aren't just a fashion statement. They're a medical necessity: In October 2014, Bono revealed that he suffers from glaucoma, which makes his vision blurry and his eyes sensitive to light.

Cliff Robinson, co-president of B. Robinson Optical, remembered this trivia last summer when his company was brainstorming ideas for a brand ambassador to support the re-launch of Revo sunglasses, which B. Robinson began manufacturing in 2013 after its partner, Sequential Brands Group, acquired the throwback brand from Oakley.

"Cliff said, 'How about Bono? He has glaucoma, so maybe he's involved in some sort of vision charity that we can support,'" retells Doug Chorpenning, founder and CEO of Wet Paint Group, a Denver-based company specializing in high-end amenities for meetings and incentives. "At first, everyone laughed and said, 'Yeah, right. Bono.' But then somebody said, 'I actually know Bono's money manager; let's see if we can get a meeting.'"

As it turns out, Robinson was right: When they met, he found out that Bono works with the Brien Holden Vision Institute, an Australian NGO that delivers vision care to underserved communities around the world.

"If he didn't have access to vision care, Bono would be blind. So he agreed to be on board if Revo would donate $10 from every pair of sunglasses it sold to the Brien Holden Vision Institute to help people see," continues Chorpenning, who says Revo agreed, establishing its "Buy Vision. Give Sight." program to help the Brien Holden Vision Institute prevent vision impairment and blindness in more than 5 million children and adults by 2020. "Cliff was floored. Although he's done some stuff for Apple and the (RED) campaign, Bono has never leant his name wholesale to a for-profit company like this before; it's unprecedented."

Robinson wasn't the only one floored by the newfound partnership. So was Chorpenning, an event designer and producer who recently repositioned his company to focus on his unique specialty: meeting and incentive amenities.

"I remember wearing Revos in the '80s and '90s, when Revo was the hot high-end brand," says Chorpenning, who was introduced to Robinson in November through a shared acquaintance. "Cliff told me how the brand had been purchased and re-launched, and I knew instantly that I wanted to be involved in it."

Chorpenning subsequently presented his vision -- a merchandise gifting program consisting of popup sunglasses bars at corporate meetings and events -- and Robinson enthusiastically endorsed it, granting Wet Paint Group exclusive partnership rights to be Revo's agent in the corporate events channel.

Betting on Boutiques

Maui Jim a decade ago became the first sunglasses brand to create a merchandise gifting program for corporate events, according to Chorpenning, who says brands such as Tumi and Ray-Ban have since launched similar programs. Wet Paint Group and Revo will be different, he says, by offering a "boutique" instead of a tabletop experience.

"Our popups are going to have a cool backdrop, Bono imagery, and U2 videos playing in the background," explains Chorpenning, who says Revo will make its corporate-event debut in April at Arrow Electronics' President's Club incentive program in Miami. "It's going to be like a big party where you get to pick out sunglasses."

Incentive winners and senior executives can choose their own frames and lenses -- Revo specializes in performance lenses for activities such as golfing, cycling, kayaking, and running -- and along with their sunglasses will receive information about Revo's "Buy Vision. Give Sight." program so attendees know their gift is also a gift for someone else.

"Every $10 donation helps one to two people see again. So if you're giving away 500 pairs of sunglasses, like Arrow Electronics is, you're helping 500 to 1,000 people around the world see," says Chorpenning, who notes that neither Bono nor Brien Holden receives compensation. "Every dollar that's donated by Revo goes to help people. It's a pretty significant impact."

Perks With a Purpose

Revo's corporate event offering is part of a larger trend, according to Chorpenning, who says corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming as foundational to meetings and incentives as merchandise gifting.

"An amenity or giveaway is pretty much a line item in every event budget," he explains. "CSR is becoming just as big. Wherever people go now, they want to give back. It's a box every company has to check."

Integrating gifting and CSR in the same package makes checking that box easy for planners and effortless for attendees, who get to experience the warm fuzzies that come from giving -- even when they're receiving. For that reason, event professionals and attendees can expect to see more programs like Revo's in the future.

In fact, Wet Paint Group already is pursuing other, similar programs. "We have been so inspired by Bono's and Revo's participation that as we grow Wet Paint from an event production company into an amenity expert company, that's going to be one of our requirements: Any brand we work with will have to have a CSR component," Chorpenning concludes. "We want to be known not only for cool amenities, but for cool amenities with heart. Because we know that giving back is important to the world we live in, and we want to be part of the solution."