American Cancer Society launches new cause branding initiative

NEW YORK: The American Cancer Society (ACS) has launched its first major cause branding initiative, driven largely by PR and social media, to boost donation dollars.

NEW YORK: The American Cancer Society (ACS) has launched its first major cause branding initiative, driven largely by PR and social media, to boost donation dollars.

Called “Choose You,” the campaign urges women to make an online pledge and a $5 donation toward reaching their personal health goals to reduce the risk of cancer.

“Companies spend about $1.5 billion on cause marketing, and our share of that has been very small,” said Scott Bennett, national VP of marketing for ACS. “Until now, we've never had a proactive strategy as it relates to cause branding.”

ACS hired Cone in 2007 to begin working on the campaign. The agency created a website where women can take the pledge and invite people via e-mail and their social networks to make support donations. Cone also created a Facebook page  

“Up to half of all cancer deaths are preventable,” Bennett told PRWeek. “Many women lead hectic, busy lives, and their health often comes secondary to the needs of their family. We want to help them put their health first.”

The website features tools such as a calorie calculator, virtual dietitian, and early detection videos.

The initiative was set to launch on May 4 with an event in Times Square to introduce the symbol for Choose You: a blue flower. Walgreens, a long-time ACS supporter, helped “power the Choose You flower” by donating its billboard at Times Square.  

“We had a desire to be competitively differentiated, so we did a lot of testing of flowers, petals, and colors,” said Bennett. “It is also no coincidence that we launched in May because it is women's health month, and, with swim season around the corner, the time of year when women are more inclined to take the steps towards a healthier commitment.”

Grey's Anatomy actress Ellen Pompeo, who attended the launch event, is spokeswoman for 2010. On launch day, she is conducting interviews with Good Morning America and The View.

On May 5, ACS is hosting a “blue” carpet luncheon featuring editors from women's publications, along with celebrities and other VIPs.

“We had the big splash in Times Square, but we wanted to bring influencers together on women's health to hear directly from ACS executives and scientific leaders,” said Alison DaSilva, EVP of cause branding for Cone. Entertainment Tonight is covering the luncheon.

ACS has also tapped its blogger advisory council, including Catherine Morgan from BlogHer and Julie Pippert from The Motherhood.

“We have seven bloggers that we've recruited to do their own pledge,” said Amy Swygert, VP of strategic communications planning for ACS. “Each of them will blog about their experiences so women can follow along in their journey and struggles.”

ACS wouldn't disclose the cost of the campaign, but Swygert said “we're relying more on PR and social media than we are advertising. It is a big PR program.”

Choose You is also being promoted through corporate sponsors Walgreens and Sprite Zero, the latter a new relationship for ACS, she added. 

ACS has also partnered with 10 major employers including Kellogg Company and Avis, which on May 12 will be encouraging their staff to take the pledge and make a $5 donation.

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