To engage a new generation of supporters in its work to fight muscular dystrophy, ALS, and related life-threatening diseases, the Muscular Dystrophy Association introduced a new brand. Also included: a pledge to double spending on research for a cure.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association, the charity known by many for its celebrity-infused telethons hosted by comedian Jerry Lewis, unveiled a new logo, website, and “Live Unlimited” campaign Friday at the site of the group’s first-ever telethon: Carnegie Hall.
In addition to its new look, MDA pledged to double research spending toward drug development and clinical trials in the next five years, increase the number of families who receive MDA care and support to 150,000 individuals annually, and send 20,000 kids to its weeklong MDA summer camps at no charge to their families, a news release said.
For decades, MDA’s telethon raised awareness and funds for the association. But in 2014 MDA held its last telethon. While the event “served us very well in building a brand and driving engagement,” there was a need to innovate the brand and set it apart from other nonprofits, Executive Vice President and Chief Communications and Marketing Officer Steve Ford told Associations Now.
MDA’s recently unveiled refreshed image comes after the organization discovered through consumer research that Gen Xers and millennials didn’t know MDA “to the extent that we believed they should,” Ford said. “The new campaign is inspired by the courageous kids and adults we serve who model strength, break down barriers, and defy limits, overcoming in many cases formidable health struggles.”
While families have historically been at the center of what MDA does, to stay culturally relevant and inspiring, MDA altered its messaging to one of empowerment in order to highlight those who are defying the odds. “In years past, we were driven by empathy,” said Ford, explaining how MDA would garner attention by talking about a child in a wheelchair or a child with leg braces. “Now its look at what that child can do,” from graduating from college to pursuing a career to raising a family of their own. Ford said MDA wanted to underscore that people are living longer and also feeling stronger but that they still need help.
“I think it’s great that MDA has a new look and tagline—we’ve got to keep giving strength, independence, and life to all the kids and adults who are fighting muscular dystrophy and other life-threatening diseases,” Lewis said.
As part of the rebrand, for the first-time MDA named a young adult as its new National Goodwill Ambassador instead of a child. Joe Akmakjian, 24, was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at 15 months old. Doctors said he wouldn’t likely live past his 12th birthday. Now Akmakjian, who has doubled his life expectancy, will spend the next year working to reach out to millennials as well as championing a need for public policies and support for young adults with disabilities.
“My dream is to inspire all types of people—not just people with muscular dystrophy or ALS—to live beyond their perceived limitations and achieve the success inside them,” he said. “People often see my wheelchair and my physical limitations and ask me what I could do if I could walk. The truth is, we’re redefining what’s possible … with high hopes to inspire the world around us.”