Aflac honors those who left footprints fighting cancer

Aflac's main philanthropic focus since 1995 has been fighting childhood cancer.

Former MLB pitcher John Smoltz (second from left) was honored at the awards last September for the work he has done for the cause
Former MLB pitcher John Smoltz (second from left) was honored at the awards last September for the work he has done for the cause

Client: Aflac (Atlanta, GA)
Agency: CSE (Atlanta, GA)
Campaign: Aflac Duckprints Awards
Duration: September 2013-ongoing
Budget: More than $500,000

Aflac’s main philanthropic focus since 1995 has been fighting childhood cancer. Efforts include programs for National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, plush holiday duck sales, and donations from agents.

A new initiative, Aflac Duckprints Awards, which honors people who have positively impacted the cause during events hosted at children’s cancer facilities, launched last September. Concurrently, all Aflac’s efforts for the cause were united under the Duckprints umbrella.

"Duckprints positions Aflac as a leader in the fight against childhood cancer with a sustained year-round effort to raise funds and awareness," says corporate communications manager Jon Sullivan. 

Duckprints is also helping Aflac reach its goal of raising $13 million for the cause by the end of 2015, bringing the cumulative total raised since 1995 to $100 million.

CSE, Aflac’s AOR for sponsorship and cause marketing, is the lead agency for Duckprints. Citizen Paine also supports aspects of Duckprints, including talent acquisition and some media relations.

The plan is to host four Duckprints Awards events annually. Four were held between September 2013 and July 2014.

"Going into hospitals shows communities that Aflac cares and has a real commitment to eradicating children’s cancer," Sullivan says. "We’re trying to create a national movement comprised of local events."

Awareness is also driven through a dedicated website, social media engagement, and media relations.

"The heart of the campaign is about the legacy of what individual people are doing and what Aflac is doing in the fight against childhood cancer," says Fergus Gordon, VP of marketing at CSE.

Award recipients and patients are honored at each event. Influencers, who are relevant to each hospital or local community, hosted the events. Media are invited, and the Aflac duck attends all events.

The first awards were presented in September 2013 at the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz and center director Dr. William G. Woods.

Subsequent shows were held at Long Island’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center, Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, and Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center. Twilight and Nurse Jackie actor Peter Facinelli presented awards at the Long Island event.

Craig Melvin, MSNBC news anchor and NBC news correspondent, who lost his niece to childhood cancer, hosted the event in South Carolina. An animated campaign video is featured on all the company’s social channels, as well as and 

The team also promotes individual stories and the overall campaign on the Aflac duck’s Facebook and Twitter pages and on Aflac’s corporate Facebook and Twitter pages.

Beginning September 2013, Aflac pledged to donate $2 (up to $2 million) to the Aflac Cancer Center for Duckprints-related social actions.

Aflac raised more than $1 million between September 2013 and June 2014 across all efforts. About 322,000 Duckprints-related social actions were taken between that period. Sullivan says a program called Swim with Friends, which ran September 2012 to September 2013, generated 57,602 social actions. 

Gordon notes an audience-submitted story about supporting the cause generated a record 100,000-plus likes on the duck’s Facebook page. As of late June, received 166,035 page views. The Duckprints video had 117,183 views.

Comparing Swim with Friends with the Duckprints Awards initiative, Sullivan reports overall donations are up 393%, total YouTube views are up 182.8%, and total social engagements climbed 200.6%. More than 2,000 stories were placed in outlets including ESPN,, ABC News, and E! News.

The next awards event will be held in September at the Aflac Cancer Center in Atlanta. 

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