Adapting Run for the Cure to the digital world

Personalization and storytelling are helping CIBC and the Canadian Cancer Society keep people who "never stop running" engaged.

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The COVID-19 pandemic may have stopped certain businesses and events from running, breast cancer didn’t go on lockdown – and neither did the commitment of Canadian women to combatting the disease.

To appeal to women directly or indirectly affected by breast cancer – and keep them engaged with this year’s Run for the Cure – the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) and title sponsor CIBC are celebrating that resolve and giving them more tools to keep running in 2020.

A 30-second animated spot features women affected by breast cancer and their family members, participating in a run as they go past people who “never stopped running” during the pandemic, as they continue to run companies, their families and events in their communities. All of the characters in the spot are modelled after actual cancer survivors, continuing to acknowledge the importance of showcasing the “heroes” and stories that give people a reason to run.

The video – created by Juniper Park\TBWA and its design studio Le Parc – is a nod to this year’s version of the run, taking place on Oct. 4. Participants will create avatars resembling the characters in the spot, which will be rewarded with virtual medals as they complete a one or five kilometre walk or run in their own neighbourhoods.

While the virtual version of the Run is a necessity, the avatars do provide a few strategic benefits. Creating, personalizing and updating an avatar will help drive engagement with both participants and potential donors prior to the run day. It also serves as a fundraising tool, incentivizing run participants to unlock additional personalization features – like a feather boa, or oversized pink glasses – when certain fundraising goals are achieved.

Paula Roberts, EVP of brand marketing, communications and digital at the CCS, adds that is being married with a direct approach that tells participants more about the people they’re supporting, the difference the participants are making and why they should raise even more money. Those stories are also being told on the Run for the Cure website.

“We have an incredibly committed group of people who participate in this event. They are connected through the reality of breast cancer, and they want to know about the people they are impacting,” Roberts says. “When you create something that’s more human [and] customized, we believe that people see themselves, or their friend, or their mother in those same customized avatars, and that’s why they’re choosing to participate.”

This year’s switch to a hybrid physical-virtual run was a significant one, Roberts notes, because instead of focusing on logistical issues – like getting permits for run routes and setting up displays – CCS had to pivot and figure out how to hold a run that was COVID-appropriate but maintained the sense of connection and community that came with people gathering for the event. On top of the avatars, stories and a mobile app that helps participants track their progress, this year’s run will feature a live-streamed kick-off ceremony, bringing all the participants – previously separated between live events in their own cities – together to watch for the first time.

Despite the tumultuous economic environment brought on by the pandemic, Roberts projects the CCS will raise $8 million from this year’s run, with roughly 40,000 people participating. Last year, 85,000 participants raised $15 million.

The “Never Stop Running” campaign will run nationally on TV, supported with organic and paid social, with a media buy handled by Mediacom.