How the World Cup Panini Stickers Can Save the World (or maybe help out a little)

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Any parent, godfather/mother, auntie or uncle around the world who has a soccer/football crazed child knows all about the Panini 2014 World Cup sticker album. And, as The Economist pointed out, “a disturbing number of adults” are also obsessed with completing their sticker albums in a recent blog about the economics and lessons in statistics that one could learn from trying to complete these things. 

Could the Panini World Cup album also be an opportunity for young people (or even the “disturbing number of adults”) to learn a bit about philanthropy and charitable giving?

My Godson, Jack, proudly displays his completed album with much relief to his parent's time and pocketbooks!

My Godson, Jack, proudly displays his completed album with much relief to his parent's time and pocketbooks!

For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, a primer:  Before each World Cup for the past several decades, the Panini company has created an album/book containing all the national teams competing in that particular World Cup with blank spaces for each team’s roster of players. The company then sells packets of stickers (five per pack) with the names of players for each team, which are randomly printed and sorted (although many a conspiracy theory abounds in this area).

You need around 640 stickers to complete the whole book, hence one ends up buying multiple packs of stickers to get all of the players and you will be left with many, many duplicate stickers that can be traded (#gotgotneed), sold, or eventually thrown out.  

What if all of those discarded stickers could be used by someone for something useful? After all, we donate clothing, food, and even cars that we do not need to various charities all of the time.  But who needs millions of stickers of footballers that did not go towards completing some happy child’s album that could not be traded or even sold?  

Not many people.

However, what if each family decided to make a donation to their favorite charity of say, $1 for each extra sticker accumulated during the completion of the album?  Better yet, what if all of the 2014 World Cup sponsors created a challenge fund to encourage a donation for each unused Panini sticker?

“Are you crazy! I spent hundreds of dollars just to complete this thing!” I can see this being a common refrain to this proposition. Granted, many families could not afford this, but many could afford to do this and much more.

But think about this for a moment: As the world comes together for this, the largest sporting event that only takes place every four years, couldn't it also be a “teachable moment” about giving back? Wouldn't it be great to see Twitter and Facebook posts such as “I finished my album! Yeah! I have 75 extra stickers and am making a donation of $75 to my favorite charity.”

Not only could this be a slight boon to many a charity across the globe, it could teach children a good lesson that in the process of accumulation, donating and giving to others can be just as satisfying as the personal prize.

So what do you say?  Possibly while watching your favorite teams over the next month, count those extra stickers lying around and make a donation to your favorite charity. And maybe encourage others to do the same through #donatepaninistickers.