Money & Business

Coaches vs. Cancer: Groups' Fundraising Strategy Eyes New Recruits

By / Dec 13, 2016 (YouTube screenshot)

Last week, the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches announced a new Coaches vs. Cancer TV and digital fundraising campaign for cancer research. Here’s why ACS recruited some of college basketball’s top coaches to their team.

Basketball coaches tend to be a passionate bunch, known for their bursts of inspiration. In one legendary example, the late Jim Valvano, who coached the North Carolina State University basketball team to an NCAA championship in 1983 and later died from cancer, said, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up,” and “Be a dreamer. If you don’t know how to dream, you’re dead.”

As we were thinking about a way to engage for donations, we started with the consumer insight that people are really interested in how coaches recruit.

This power to incite passion is what the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches are counting on in their latest Coaches vs. Cancer “Come Play for Us” campaign to raise money for cancer research. ACS has raised about $100 million through Coaches vs. Cancer campaigns over the last 23 years, but this year the organization is hoping to bring the campaign to the national stage, according to Sharon Byers, chief development and marketing officer at ACS.

The new campaign, which launched last weekend and runs through April 3, 2017, features a 30-second TV commercial, in which four iconic Division I college basketball coaches leverage their passion for recruiting new players to help ACS recruit new donors. The coaches include the University of Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger, the University of Memphis’ Tubby Smith, the University of North Carolina’s Roy Williams, and Villanova University’s Jay Wright.

“As we were thinking about a way to engage for donations, we started with the consumer insight that people are really interested in how coaches recruit,” Byers said. “So, it was a beautiful play on that magical moment when coaches are trying to recruit young kids to come play for them, and tie that into recruitment into the American Cancer Society to help us save lives and execute our mission.”

The TV commercial first aired during the Villanova game last weekend, and it will continue to make appearances throughout the month, including during this weekend’s CBS Sports Classic. Moving into 2017, the campaign will also feature:

  • Suits & Sneakers Awareness Week, January 23-29, in which basketball coaches in high school and college will wear sneakers with their suits to raise awareness about ACS’s mission and the importance of nutrition and physical activity in reducing cancer risk.
  • Princess Lacey’s Laces, in honor of 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth, who forged a special relationship with Michigan State University basketball player Adreian Payne before losing her battle with cancer in 2014. Starting in January, proceeds from sales of Lacey’s Laces from Shoe Carnival will go to ACS and the Princess Lacey’s Legacy nonprofit.
  • The Coaches v. Cancer 3-Point Challenge in February, which asks fans to pledge donations for every three-pointer that their school makes. David Doan, ACS vice president of strategic sports alliances, says 160 schools have signed up.

The campaign is “really bringing the American Cancer Society into the next stage of the 23-year-old amazing global nonprofit and making it extremely relevant,” Doan said.

Byers said ACS will be looking closely at how this campaign, which has specific revenue goals, connects with consumers.

“Cancer is a worthy opponent, to say the least,” according to the Coaches vs. Cancer website. But humanity’s “courage, determination, innovation, passion, empathy, and caring … are the values that are giving us the advantage over cancer.”

Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. More »

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