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Astellas’ organ transplant visibility campaign earns two Bulldog Awards wins

Today, an estimated 120,000 men, women and children in the U.S. are awaiting lifesaving organ transplants, but less than a quarter of the total need is being met (and a mere 10 percent of the global need). The number of registered organ donors is rising, but it’s not enough to keep pace. And for those fortunate enough to receive a donor organ, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is another critical hurdle to reduce risk of organ rejection. A recent global survey conducted by the World Transplant Games Federation (WTGF) identified a desire among transplant recipients to improve their health and physical well-being.

In August 2016, global pharmaceutical company and transplantation leader Astellas expanded its collaboration with WTGF with the introduction of Fit for Life!, a bold new global initiative designed to help transplant recipients live full and active lives through ongoing physical activity and participation in organized sports. Fit for Life! is a multi-year program that will provide transplant and organ donation communities with the essential resources for optimal nutrition and exercise post-transplant. These efforts were underpinned by a push to increase organ donation.

For the Fall launch campaign to be successful, the teams’ efforts needed to grab the attention of target audiences and implement a multi-market, multi-language approach to ensure global reach. Read on to find out how Astellas and WTGF achieved and exceeded their campaign goals, earning the firms two Silver Awards—in the “Best Cause/Advocacy Campaign” and “Best Corporate and Community, Non-Profit or NGO Partnership” categories—in Bulldog Reporter’s 2016 CSR Awards.

The Challenge: In the U.S., the campaign team had to break through a cluttered news cycle overwhelmed by U.S. presidential election coverage and complicated by the Chicago Cubs World Series run and history-making championship, which coincided with a live event planned in Chicago.

But that wasn’t all: “To effectively execute the Fit for Life! program, we had to overcome several challenges,” said Tyler Marciniak, corporate affairs director and head of product communications for Astellas Americas,. “These included:

  • Engaging transplant recipients to apply for and participate in a brand new global program to serve as program ambassadors for others undergoing transplants
  • Inspiring the public to rally around the organ-donation cause with a unifying call-to-action
  • Implementing a multi-market, multi-language approach to drive global reach

“Therefore, the team needed to create a newsworthy key moment-in-time to stand out. To do so, the team partnered with Donate Life America to attempt to break the Guinness World Records title for most online organ donor registrations in an eight-hour period. This helped to generate buzz and provide a call-to-action to fans at the game as well as social media followers,” Marciniak added.

Campaign Objectives: The team outlined the following goals for the initiative:

  • Drive awareness and support for Fit for Life! among the transplant community—Inspire the transplant recipients, donors, researchers and healthcare professionals to learn about and get involved in the Fit for Life! program.
  • Shed light on the power of organ donation and drive organ donation registration—Encourage individuals outside of the transplant community to become organ donors.
  • Highlight commitment to the transplant community—Further demonstrate WTGF and Astellas’ longtime dedication to addressing unmet needs of the transplant community.

To achieve key objectives, the team needed to:

  • Excite transplant recipients about a brand new global program whose suite of resources and programs were to be rolled out over several years.
  • Engage individuals outside of the transplant community with a significant and unifying call to action.
  • Execute the campaign with a limited budget.

The Execution: The team leveraged a phased approach to engage audiences around the Fit for Life! program, both within and outside of the transplant community at key moments in time and through multiple communications channels. They implemented the first phase of the effort with the launch of the program in August 2016 at The Transplantation Society (TTS) Annual Congress in Hong Kong. “TTS is a high-profile transplant forum that draws 2,800 scientific researchers, clinicians and other transplantation experts—in recognition of the important role researchers and healthcare professionals play in a transplant recipient’s ongoing health and wellness,” says Marciniak.

To drive visibility for the initiative, WTGF and Astellas issued a joint press release on the inaugural program. To identify transplant recipients whose compelling stories and passionate advocacy would fuel the program’s reach and impact, WTGF issued a call for Ambassadors in September, inviting transplant recipients from participating countries around the world to submit an online essay explaining how they’ve stayed fit and active in their life post- transplant. “The team activated media outreach in markets around the world including Ireland, Spain, Canada, the U.S., Japan and Australia,” Marciniak relates.

“The team then sent the letters to global transplant/advocacy organizations, encouraging them to spread the word on the Ambassador Program and its submission process to their networks via their communications channels,” he says. “We invited selected Ambassadors to share their story and interact with fans at the New Zealand All Blacks and the Irish Rugby Football Union game at Chicago’s Soldier Field.”

In addition to using Astellas’ social channels to reach the transplant community, the team leveraged select partners’ (WTGF, Donate Life America, Irish Rugby, All Blacks, USA Rugby, Rugby Weekend) social media channels to reach key audiences at specific moments in time. “The social media strategy also encouraged engagement through targeted hashtags and Fit for Life! mentions, providing a direct call-to-action to followers,” Marciniak offers. “To maximize message reach, the team coordinated day-of Twitter paid promotions to amplify engagement.”

They also conducted media outreach beginning three weeks in advance of the rugby match to identify select business, healthcare, sports and lifestyle reporters covering the match to incorporate Fit for Life! messaging into the current conversation. “We then reached out to media that cover world record attempts when the Guinness World Records title was achieved for most online organ donor registrants in an eight-hour period—tripling the previous record with the potential to save over 225,000 lives,” he adds.

The Results: Here’s a rundown of results for each phase of the campaign

Program Launch and Selection of Global Ambassadors: Global media relations coverage exceeded expectations. Coverage included:

  • 37 original media stories, spanning 13 different regions, garnered more than 31 million impressions including coverage in The Daily Mail, The Huffington Post,, Irish Mirror, Australia Sunrise, Ming Pao Daily News, The Irish Times, Life and Fitness Magazine and Kyodo News.
  • 674 articles picked up from the distribution of two press releases reaching 256 million impressions.
  • WTGF also received more than 200 entries for the first-ever global Ambassador program.

Onsite Rugby Game Activation and World Record Attempt: The team:

  • Achieved the Guinness World Records title for most online organ donor registrants in an eight-hour period, tripling the previous record with the potential to save over 225,000 lives.
  • Fit for Life! messaging reached more than 62,000 attendees at the New Zealand All Blacks and the Irish Rugby Football Union game at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
  • Social posts mentioning #Fit4Life and organ donors from August 19 – November 30 totaled 453 Tweets reaching 7.5 million impressions. With a donation for each social mention, Astellas, collectively with its subsidiaries, contributed a total of $175,000 to WTGF.
  • From launch on November 4, a promoted Twitter campaign resulted directly in more than 1.8 million impressions, 2,448 engagements and 582 clicks to
  • Clicks to site drove a 0.04% CTR
  • 2,448 engagements resulted in a 1.19% engagement rate

“Both media coverage and social media reach surpassed program goals,” Marciniak confirmed.

Secrets of Success: Marciniak relays key takeaways from this successful campaign that can elevate your next CSR effort—demonstrating how Astellas and its partners earned two Silvers in Bulldog’s 2016 CSR Awards:

  • Collaborate with like-minded organizations who share your values to collectively reach key stakeholders with a unified message and call-to-action.
  • Set actionable and—most importantly—measurable goals that will help to demonstrate your impact.
  • Leverage paid media to extend the impact and reach of your efforts.
  • Engage your broader communications network to connect locally with reporters and find local angles that resonate (local stories, statistics, etc.)
  • Incorporate live photos from events in social media posts to help bridge in-person and online experiences.
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