CAMPAIGNS: Bike riders race to show importance of fighting cancer

PR Team: Bristol-Myers Squibb (New York) and Spectrum Science Public Relations (Washington, DC) Campaign: Tour of Hope Time frame: Early spring to October 2003 Budget: Agency declined to disclose at press time

PR Team: Bristol-Myers Squibb (New York) and Spectrum Science Public Relations (Washington, DC) Campaign: Tour of Hope Time frame: Early spring to October 2003 Budget: Agency declined to disclose at press time

With cancer such a common killer, its treatment is a cause that can always be championed, just as Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) did when it sponsored the 2003 Tour of Hope. Already a sponsor of the Cycle of Hope, an organization devoted to helping cancer survivors be more proactive in their care, BMS decided it was time for a new push. Lance Armstrong, a longtime supporter of Cycle of Hope, was on board, and with his influence, a cross-country bicycle trip was planned. Strategy The tour's goal was two-sided: Organizers wanted to raise money, yet impress upon people the need to actively help find a cure. The Cycle of Hope website already included "The Cancer Promise," in which a person vowed to take action should they be affected by cancer. The promise became a symbol of outreach, and it was a hope that each person touched by the tour would sign on. Tactics Spectrum decided to target local organizations for a grassroots effort. Cycling clubs and cancer advocacy groups were contacted to drum up supporters for local rides, and a nationwide search was conducted to find the core cyclists. Tour organizers wanted them to be avid cyclists who had a strong connection to cancer, either through themselves and relatives or through their work. Media coverage also was to be done mostly locally, with publicity coming from local newscasts and sponsored ads. Spectrum designed a website that allowed people to sponsor riders and make donations. The main fundraising would be by cyclists for both the tour and the local rides. Following an intensive interview process, 26 cyclists were selected from a pool of more than 1,000 applicants. Members of the tour received two free months of personal training and were given custom-made Trek racing bikes, the same model used by Armstrong. The group started in LA on October 11 with a 100-km group ride to kick off the event. In order to cover the 3,230-mile route in a week, the cyclists had to ride in shifts. Armstrong was always a presence, joining in at multiple points along the way for support, even helping weary cyclists up steep hills. When the team reached Washington, DC, on October 18, they were joined by 1,500 other riders for the 40-mile celebratory ride through the city. "There was an emotional element to this. People were in it for all the right reasons," says Spectrum president John Seng. "It wasn't just about driving awareness, but motivating people to show their care and concern." Results More than $1.34 million was raised, and 40,000 Cancer Promises were signed. More than 1,700 riders participated in the rides in LA and DC, while 6,000 to 8,000 supporters flocked to the streets to watch the 26 riders glide by. "The major focus was engagement," Seng says. "With the Cancer Promise and the tour, people made this overt, tangible promise to take action." Future Plans are already in the works for a 2004 Tour of Hope. "The first time you do anything, it's a learning experience, and we learned, so it's only going to get better," says Seng. "We're always hoping to extend our reach."

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