Hospital bets on bold campaign to “fund the fight”

Sick Kids VS: Toronto hospital’s ambitious fall fundraising campaign

by Christina Parsons

Over the last two years I have spent a fair amount of time around hospitals because both my Dad and a close friend battled cancer. My Dad’s battle ended 18 months ago and my friend won her battle this fall.

When I walked down University Avenue in downtown Toronto last week and saw the VS sign on Sick Kids Hospital, I knew what it meant before I googled the campaign. And it resonated on an emotional and personal level.

Later that evening I saw the TV spot on CBC’s Toronto station. Set to rap music, it is being called “fierce,” “unprecedented,” and “intense.”

Take two minutes now to view the launch video, the hospital’s new “rallying cry,” that is intended to expand the donor base needed to “fund the fight.”


This first video, called “Sick Kids VS: Undeniable” also known as “Anthem,” sets the tone for the campaign in the digital world, in the media and even on buildings and streetcars. 50 patient families and 100 staff members participated in the four campaign videos. They are portrayed as warriors in a battle against all kinds of illnesses, trauma, and, at times, impossible odds. We are rooting for them.

Bringing the why to new audiences
The VS theme is an impactful way to develop and share stories across various platforms that speak to the “why” of the hospital. Simon Sinek says that successful organizations know what their why is and communicate it across their brand communications.

The hospital and Cossette, their creative agency, are following best practices in content creation as they bring the why of the hospital to a new audience, younger than their established donor base.

The YouTube post is a crisp delivery of the campaign’s key message:

“At SickKids, we’re not on the sidelines, we’re on the front line. Taking the fight to the greatest challenges in child health. And we are winning.

No need to use lots of words. Mark Schaefer, the blogger behind the popular marketing blog Grow, says to “cut, cut, cut.”

One straightforward hashtag #SickKidsVS is employed throughout. Their Facebook account celebrates the brand and features short stories. The Oct. 29 post was: “Dr. Matava VS pain and worry…” It included a photo of the anaesthesiologist and introduced us to one of their behind-the-scenes warriors. This was consistent with Facebook Business best tips for posting, including using a good image, being personal and engaging.

Twitter can be a teaser to encourage you to go to the website or sometimes other channels like Facebook. The Nov. 9 tweet, which has a touching back story, is short and effective:

“Sick Kids cancer researchers have many reasons to spend long hours in the lab. One of them is Grace.”

This tweet is 102 characters, which is close to the 100-character ideal for best engagement, according to several experts quoted in a Fast Company article.

VS on the website
Finally the foundation for all your digital content is your digital home, your website. The campaign homepage is flush with photo and video content with minimal text that reinforces the messaging of the campaign, expresses the why of the organization and calls us to action (fund the fight/donate).

The homepage opens with a video and then the words “Choose your fight” and showcases four fights to choose from. One example:

“VS the unknown: Knowledge saves lives. Fund the fight to pioneer new possibilities in treatment and cure. Sick Kids’ 2,000 research staff make advances every day that bring new hope to children and their families.”

Then there is a button that says “Choose your fight” and when you click it, you are invited to type your name so that you are officially conscripted into the battle and the screen becomes “your name VS.”

Sign me up!
This is a battle that I want to join! But what about everyone else? Sick Kids received some negative feedback from some who did not appreciate the battle analogy. However, there are 10,000 positive comments for every negative comment according to a media audit commissioned by the foundation.

I bet the campaign is mobilizing staff and patients to be ambassadors both on and offline. That would mean they are going online and sharing all the great digital content of the campaign. And that is one of the main measures of good content: shares, likes, views and comments. With well over 550,000 views on YouTube for “Undeniable” and great engagement on their social channels, it looks like Sick Kids has a successful campaign. It will be interesting to check back in January to see if the campaign delivered on the engagement and fundraising goals.

Battle weary or not, you will be moved
Personally, I love this campaign. It speaks to the heart or as Scott Cross taught us in McGill University’s #CBUS111 Content Creation class: the reptilian brain. I happen to have my own battle scars from accompanying two special people in recent life-and-death battles.

Whether you are battle weary or not, I think the emotional appeal of this campaign is broad and speaks to diverse and new-to-donating publics.


4 thoughts on “Hospital bets on bold campaign to “fund the fight”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s