NFL stars kick off melanoma awareness effort targeting uninformed men

Despite rising incidence levels of melanoma, many awareness and educational efforts were focused broadly on skin cancer, with UV messages and protecting skin for beauty reasons.

Despite rising incidence levels of melanoma, many awareness and educational efforts were focused broadly on skin cancer, with UV messages and protecting skin for beauty reasons.

There was a need for a more unified approach that brought together advocacy groups to elevate awareness, specifically about melanoma, with a strong call to action to get screened.

This resulted in the creation of the Melanoma Exposed campaign, which is an extension of Bristol-Myers Squibb's commitment to patients.

With the help of advocacy partners, a campaign was developed to raise the profile of the disease, compel people to take an active role in their skincare, and accelerate early detection.

Men are twice as likely to die from melanoma as women, so when we conducted a survey to learn their perceptions about the disease, it was no surprise that only 9% of men consider it a health concern. We felt we had a unique angle as many campaigns focus on women.

Football was a natural way to reach men because there are many football stars with a connection to the disease. We worked with former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, whose wife passed away from the disease, and who tested very high in connecting with men and women.

A partnership was formed with the New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, and Denver Broncos to activate local skin screenings. Teams provided their own spokesperson, including former New York Giants QB Phil Simms who recently had skin cancer treatment.

Each NFL partner promoted screening events and posted information on social media pages, team websites, during games on Jumbotrons, email blasts, and local TV and radio channels.

We garnered more than 176 million media impressions. Men's Fitness ran a three-page article highlighting Cowher's story and a video interview explaining his involvement with Melanoma Exposed. The Associated Press wrote an article on the campaign and Cowher's story, and sports radio's Boomer & Carton did a 15-minute interview with him.

Altogether, 1,150 PSAs aired on outlets including Fox News, CNN, and The Doctors and in print in Time, Entertainment Weekly, O, The Oprah Magazine, and Family Circle.

Response has been overwhelmingly positive and people who have fought their battle with melanoma or skin cancer are grateful their story is being told. 

Sarah Koenig is the director of public affairs at biopharmaceutical firm Bristol-Myers Squibb.

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