Report: Does SickKids New “Fierce” Campaign Break Through or Backfire?

sickkids hero image

“Battle scenes lifted from Braveheart, fight scenes akin to Rocky and a motorcycle peeling down a hospital corridor. Those are among the scenes of a big, bold and very intense new campaign by the Hospital for Sick Children highlighting the strength of kids so often labelled “sick.” The campaign, titled “VS,” set to the pounding beat of the rap song Undeniable by Donnie Daydream, depicts hospital patients, past and present, kicking, punching and battling adversaries like cancer, liver failure and cystic fibrosis.”

That’s how the CBC describes SickKids bold new campaign “Fierce.” Others are not so complimentary.

“First, likening illnesses and disability to war forgets the range of experiences and outcomes associated with these conditions. Some of the kids living with the conditions highlighted in the campaign will not ‘win the battle’ and it’s not because they are morally weak or don’t have enough fight in them. The war metaphor implies that positive health outcomes flow naturally from personal will, good choices and a positive attitude,” write professors Michael Orsini and Anne McGuire in Impact Ethics.

Rumor has it some SickKids staff and current donors are not so happy with this new campaign either.

Does this Campaign Win the War for Attention?

Knowing how challenging it is for not-for-profits to grab and hold the public’s attention, we wanted to know if this bold reframing of SickKids’ narrative would break through or backfire. So, we connected with a representative sample of 800 adult Ontarians who are members of our Angus Reid Forum, to see what the public thinks.

We asked them about their recent donations and their awareness of this campaign. Then we showed them one of the commercials and waited to see what they’d say.

Triumphant Results

Three quarters (74%) like or even love the ad, and just a handful (4%) “hate it.” And people did not just “like” it in the passive sense of Facebook. It made them want to act. After watching the ad, six in ten (57%) said they would be likely to donate money to SickKids. Given that 19% said they had donated to SickKids last year, this represents a potential increase in donors of almost 200%.

What About Backlash?

One concern is that the ad turns off important past donors who responded to the gentler campaigns of previous years. We found that, for the most part, previous donors were not repelled. Fully 85% of past donors indicated they were likely to donate again, after seeing the ad.

While no one wants to see a single donor leave, this relatively small number is greatly outweighed by the fact that 50% of people who did not donate to SickKids last year indicated they would be likely to this year. Those people represent 80% of the population. That’s the kind of breakthrough every organization dreams of.

Even those who did dislike the ad were not necessarily turned off SickKids. Of those who disliked or hated the ad, 17% still intend to donate to SickKids, which is very much in line with the 19% of the total population who donated last year.

Ad Impact

One in six (17%) have seen the ad before. This is a respectable recall number for a relatively small ad buy, but there is still be lots of work to be done to reach all potential donors and have the campaign hit its full potential.

The ad was described as “powerful” (73%), “inspiring” (57%) and “motivating” by those who liked it. Those who disliked it were more likely to select words like “offensive” (28%), “antagonistic” (24%) and “unrealistic” (22%).

Millennial Magic

Every not-for-profit wants to attract the next generation of donors—the Millennials. But it’s hard to grab their attention and motivate them to action.

This campaign, created in a very contemporary style, was a direct hit with the Millennials. Not only did they like it, it inspired them to want to donate, more than any other age group. That’s millennial magic.

The Take Away

A daring reframing of the narrative about SickKids has the potential to pay off. It is attracting attention and inspiring new donors.

Seeing how a bold, innovative move can potentially impact donating, the question becomes “what’s your next big move?”

If you need to identify opportunities, generate innovation, test campaign ideas or optimize your offer, we can help. Get started by contacting us to learn more about this study and how we can help your not-for-profit break through.