SickKids VS


Cause (GOLD)
New Brand Positioning (GOLD)
Strategic Thinking (GOLD)

Client Credits: SickKids Foundation
VP, Brand Strategy and Communications: Lori Davison
Director, Integrated Brand Marketing: Kate Torrance
Director, Public Relations: Sandra Chiovitti
Associate Director, Community Stakeholder Relations: Lisa Charendoff
Director, Digital Projects: Mark Jordan
Marketing Manager: Tina Tieu
Marketing Manager: Harleen Bhogal
Marketing Manager: Laura Bradley Stewart
Marketing Manager: Kelly Hanley
Coordinator, Public Relations: Madeline Salerno

Agency Credits: Cossette
Chief Creative Officer Carlos Moreno : Chief Creative Officer Peter Ignazi
Creative Director/CW Craig McIntosh : Creative Director/AD Jaimes Zentil
Designer Natasha Michalowska
Agency Producer Dena Thompson
Account Supervisor Olivia Figliomeni : Account Supervisor Daniel Dolan
Account Director Hanh Vo : Account Director Melissa Levenberg
VP, Brand Director(s): Michelle Perez, Steve Groh
Chief Strategy Officer Jason Chaney : Director, Strategy Fernando Aloise
Production House Skin & Bones : Editing House Skin & Bones
Director Mark Zibert
DOP Jackson Parrell
Executive Producer Dan Ford : Executive Producer Liane Thomas
Line Producer Joan Bell
Editor Marka Rankovic
Transfer/Online Facility The Vanity
Flame Artist Sean Cochrane : Colourist Andrew Exworth
Animation The Mill NYC : Animation The Vanity : Animation a52
Photographer Nikki Ormerod : Photography Studio Westside Studio
Audio House SNDWRX
Music Creative Director Didier Tovel
Song Undeniable - by Donnie Daydream Feat: Richie Sosa
Technical Development Partner Jam3 : Executive Producer Michael Dobell
Project Manager Maia Spetter
UX Strategist(s): Tara O'Doherty, Thomas Wilkins: Digital Advisor Dawid Kucinski
Digital Art Director Gustavo Oregel
In-House Production Identica
Senior Retoucher Trevor Gauthier : Senior Production Artist Shireen Kok
Studio Director Raquel Mullen
Print Producer Dawn-Marie Mills : Print Producer Aimee Churchill
Media Company: OMD

Total 2261 Words


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):October 2016 – December 2016
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: October 2016
Base Period as a Benchmark: April 2015 - September 2016
Geographic Area: Greater Toronto Area (GTA)
Budget for this effort: $2 - $3 million

Why should this case win in the category (ies) you have entered?
SickKids wanted to disrupt the marketplace with a new brand idea that could drive engagement and motivate donations.

With consumers being trained to expect a specific tone and message from cause marketing, the typical sad and helpless advertising approach no longer broke through. Our donations were flatlining. The money was also coming from the same donor set, which was aging out and skewed heavily female. In order to succeed, SickKids needed to jolt younger and more male donors off of the sidelines. We wouldn’t reach our ambitious fundraising goals, unless we did something radically different.

This campaign was groundbreaking in the cause marketing world. We were able to shift our target audience’s perceptions of SickKids hospital from sad to powerful, strong, and winning. This in turn changed their behaviour and how they chose to give back and donate to SickKids. We effectively built an entirely new brand for the hospital based on our pivotal insight, strategic thinking, and targeting new groups that were not traditional SickKids donors.

By doing these three things we created a campaign that was not only visually striking and captivating for the viewer but also reinvented SickKids as a brand and shaped how cause marketing is conducted. We built up SickKids’ donor base with this campaign and acquired over 3000 new monthly donors who are loyal to this cause. The hospital has always had a good reputation in Ontario and across the country but now it is seen as a groundbreaking research centre that can win its battles.

This campaign was not only successful in Canada, it received media coverage in 15+ countries around the world, including: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States.

a) Describe the Client’s business, competition and relevant history:

The client for this case is The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto (SickKids). They are the most research intensive hospital and largest centre dedicated to improving children’s health in Canada. For many years SickKids used sympathy and pity to drive their donations, they were not acting like a ‘winning’ performance brand.

b) Describe the Client’s Business Issues/Opportunities to be addressed by the campaign:

The business problem was that the traditional SickKids donor base was aging out and there were no new groups of donors being targeted to reach their ambitious fundraising goal. The hospital needed to develop a new strategy to appeal to these new groups of people in a way that a hospital had not in the past.


We saw an opportunity to turn the SickKids brand from one of sympathy and sadness to one that that was seen as powerful and ‘winning’ in their fight. This would allow other demographics to be attracted to SickKids and choose it as their charitable cause.


c) Resulting Business Objectives: Include how these will be measured:

SickKids gave us an aggressive fundraising goal. We needed to help them generate $1 billion in donations over five years – more money than ever before.

In order to do this, we needed to expand their donor base. It was no longer enough to only talk to women from the Gen-X or Baby Boomer generation – we needed men to rally behind our cause as well. And, we needed to convert a notoriously skeptical demographic – Millennials. If SickKids could turn this young demographic into a loyal donor base, SickKids would have the foundation it needed to reach its fundraising goal.

a) What new learnings/insights did you uncover?

We knew that SickKids’ previous marketing was in the same tone as other hospitals; sad, sympathetic, and emotional. This sort of marketing was attracting one kind of donor, mainly female and 35+. For this new campaign we knew that we needed to tap into many other demographics of donors if we wanted to reach the goal of raising $1 billion.


Our insight was that people want to support a brand that is winning and one that is actively fighting against their enemy, in this case - child illness. This is relevant to our challenge because we were working on turning SickKids from a helpless sympathy brand to a powerful performance brand that can and will accomplish their goals. This would draw attention to the brand and attract different sorts of donors than SickKids had traditionally attracted.

b) What was your Big Idea?

We decided to stop acting like a charity and start acting like a performance brand, in the vein of Nike and Under Armour. We demonstrated we were a winning brand and that any donation, no matter how small, would achieve tangible results.


c) How did your Communication strategy evolve?

Our research found that people are far more likely to donate if they feel that an organization is on the cusp of something significant and far more apt to pay attention when a tone shifts significantly.

We redefined the word ‘sick’ by instead focusing on the fierce fighting spirit and will to win that children with severe illness possess. In doing so, we not only empowered our patients but also reframed SickKids as a competitive performance brand (from a charity brand) with a unrelenting goal – to fight until every kid is a healthy kid.

Gone was the sad, tear-inducing advertising. Instead we portrayed our patients, doctors, nurses, and researchers like Nike would one of their star athletes – tough, resilient, and unyielding and we gave them the eye-catching and prominent placements they deserved.

Lastly, we redefined the typical children’s hospital advertising media strategy.  Instead of choosing small and passive ad placements that appear helpless and needy, we dominated the entire city with massive, eye-catching, high profile placements in TV, OOH, digital, social media, and more.

d) How did you anticipate the communication would achieve the Business Objectives?

With this campaign we were targeting new demographics of donors, specifically males, millennials, and young parents. Their previous impressions of SickKids were that it is a children’s hospital that is doing great work but it is a sad place with sick children.

In order to succeed we needed to change this perception. With our new ‘winning’ brand and powerful, unexpected campaign we would gain a lot of attention from groups that were not traditional SickKids donors. As we presented SickKids as a brand that was well on it’s way to defeating its enemies and winning the fight more people would begin to take note of the brand. This would cause the perception of the hospital to switch from one of sympathy and sadness to one of strength, power, and resilience. People would change their giving habits to donate to a top performing brand.

Section IV — THE WORK
a) How, where and when did you execute it?

This was the first campaign of it’s kind for a children’s hospital, and we were able to launch a fully integrated campaign across many platforms. We launched with a bold and intense :120 film during the Toronto Maple Leafs home opener (in arena and on broadcast) thus guaranteeing the majority of Torontonians would be watching. From there, we pushed out further films online, and dominated the city with bold OOH placements. We dominated Yonge + Dundas square with aggressive and assertive photography of our patients. And then for the very first time in the airport’s history, did a complete takeover of Billy Bishop as well. We plastered billboards across the city, wrapped streetcars, and even completely took over the inside of the hospital itself with large installations. We rebranded the website to and for the first time allowed donors to personalize their fight and declare the enemy they were fighting against.  

We then launched a series of online films, which explored the complexity of the hospital by telling the story of Grace. Grace was a child who lost her battle with cancer, but inspired an entire research team to fight for a cure with SickKids VS. Cancer. We then featured Hartley, who, after a dozen surgeries, told the need for more operating rooms with SickKids VS. 100Today. And finally, the story of the hospital rallying to ensure Santa Claus could find the hospital, a major source of anxiety for kids who are at SickKids during the holidays, with SickKids VS. MissingHome.

c) Media Plan Summary

a) How did the work impact attitudes and behaviour?

For the period of October 2016 to December 2016 SickKids reported:

  • $57.9 million raised for SickKids

-        YOY increase of 10% in male donors

-        10% increase in donors aged 25–35

-        Online transactions increased by 295%

-        Online revenue rose by 695%

These results show that donors were changing their perceptions of SickKids. Males and younger donors were more readily donating to the hospital. They now understood it to be a winning brand and a cause where their money would make a tangible difference.

b) What Business Results did the work achieve for the client?

This campaign’s goal was to generate as much donation revenue as it could for SickKids and it exceeded everyone’s expectations. It reported an all-time record-breaking fundraising revenue of $57.9M and the average online donation hit an all time high of $188 (up 63% from last year).

c) Other Pertinent Results

The campaign also reported:

-        VS Anthem spot: 5+ million views

-        Earned media results to date 295 stories and 56.5 million impressions.

The press loved the campaign, giving us unprecedented earned media around the globe. In Canada, the VS campaign was written about 295 times, giving us approximately 56.5 million impressions domestically, as measured by Media Relations Rating Polls.

Internationally, we generated 58 stories across 17 countries, which included everything from broadcasts on the evening news in Germany and Japan, to interviews with spokespeople, to online stories and social shares.

d) What was the campaign’s Return on Investment?

The ROI for this campaign was $24.6, almost 25-1.

Section VI — Proof of Campaign Effectiveness
a) Illustrate the direct cause and effect between the campaign and the results

The results of this campaign are directly linked to the insight and the strategy used to develop the creative that was in market. The shift in tone to one of strength and the feeling that SickKids is a ‘winning’ brand drove a lot of the results.

The public reaction to this campaign was huge and, for the most part, overwhelmingly positive. Many people reached out to SickKids directly to tell them how they were impacted by the campaign and that it drove them to become a monthly donor or choose SickKids as their philanthropic cause. For example Dov Zevy, the Managing Director at Korn/Ferry International and oversees the Canadian branch in executive recruiting searches in the financial services/private equity/accounting/real estate sectors, and his family gave a generous gift of $2500 to SickKids after the campaign aired. When SickKids contacted him to say thank you he wanted to share that the donation came about because, when sitting down with his family to talk about philanthropy for the year, his 23-year-old son said, “Have you seen the SickKids ads? Why aren’t we giving there?” This campaign has successfully motivated people to care about this cause and to donate to SickKids Hospital.

b) Prove the results were not driven by other factors
Campaign spend vs. history and competition:

This campaign had a very high production value, however much of the work was done pro-bono for this cause. The primary goal was to gain a new donor set to propel SickKids to its monetary goal of $1 billion. This campaign started SickKids down the path to success, it reported an all-time record-breaking fundraising revenue of $57.9M and the average online donation hit an all time high of $188 (up 63% from last year). This demonstrates that we were effective in our efforts to find new donors and convert them with an innovative strategy and creative messaging.

Pre-existing Brand momentum:

The VS campaign was what ignighted all these donations to come pouring into SickKids. Previous to this campaign the hospital was using the same sad tone as other children's hospitals and thus there was no brand differentiation. There was no pre-existing brand momentum in the direction that VS took SickKids.


SickKids was hoping for a high ROI for this campaign and to achieve this they did not lower their base donation amounts. To be a monthly donor the smallest amount one could contribute a month remained $25. 

Changes in Distribution/Availability:

Our insight allowed us to see a new brand positioning opportunity for the hospital, which meant that we could target new audiences more effectively. We were able to increase the male donor base by 10% YOY, as well the number of donors between the ages of 25 and 35 increased by 10%. In previous years we had very few donors from these demographics but the new campaign messaging appealed to them and finally got them to start converting.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

This campaign took over the city of Toronto and beyond with large, impressive OOH pieces in Dundas square, TSAs, radio, and the Undeniable TV spot. SickKids had never before dominated the city and got in the faces of the people who they were targeting as new donors for the hospital. This allowed the campaign to attract donors from segments who weren't their traditional donor set and break records with the donations gathered.

Any other factors:

This campaign was so powerful that people felt compelled to reach out to SickKids and share their own stories of times at the hospital, or that the campaign promped them to donatr, like the Zevy family. It struck a chord with the people of Toronto and there was an outpouring of support for the hospital like it's never seen.