The Komen College Tour
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Holmes Report

The Komen College Tour

In its effort to reach all relevant demographics, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation worked with Fleishman-Hillard to develop an innovative, interactive campaign to reach young adults.

Paul Holmes

Claiming the lives of more than 40,000 people each year, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for women ages 20 to 39. In its effort to reach all relevant demographics, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation worked with Fleishman-Hillard to develop an innovative, interactive campaign to reach young adults.

While not everyone in the 18-21 demographic attends college, college campuses are increasingly microcosms of society with diverse student bodies capturing all ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic categories. As such, the Komen Foundation and FH determined that a college tour would be the most targeted and effective way to reach young adults. To ensure true diversity, the team carefully selected each university.

On the Way to the Cure – The Komen College Tour traveled to 10 colleges and universities, communicating important breast health messages to a diverse set of young women and men. There was an emphasis on women, as they are at higher risk for breast cancer than men, and on African-Americans, who are at particular risk for late diagnosis. Over a two-week period, the tour directly reached more than 28,000 college students at 10 campuses and garnered 8.5 million media impressions.

Despite evidence that early detection saves lives, young adults do not recognize breast cancer as an immediate health risk, citing breast cancer is an “older woman’s” disease. In trying to reach this demographic, the team had to develop a program that would break through this bias and register as a priority in comparison to school and social life commitments. Further, the campaign had to deliver important health messages in a manner that would empower this audience without frightening or alienating them.

On behalf of the Komen Foundation, the California Family Health Council and Harris Interactive conducted a Young Women’s Needs Assessment on breast health practices, widely held breast cancer myths and preferred education methods for women ages 20-39. Findings included: more than half of young women are not performing monthly breast self-examinations (BSE), more than half, nearly 60 percent, of young women do not believe they are at risk for breast cancer, forty percent of young women incorrectly believe that mammograms prevent breast cancer rather than screen for it, an October 2003 Harris Interactive Survey reported that the more years a college student has been exposed to the Internet, the less likely he or she is to consider traditional media as their primary source of information.

An all-college focus allowed for concentrated numbers of the target demographic (women 18-21) and enabled the team to realize efficiencies of scale with program development and implementation. Schools were determined based on campus diversity, strength of the local media market, and proximity to Komen Foundation Affiliate offices.

Selected schools were 53 percent women and 35 percent African-American, both above the national average of 51 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Specifically, the tour visited three historically black colleges and universities, select southern schools with a higher than average African-American student population, and an all-women’s college.

The team scheduled the tour for early fall – right after orientation but before the academic year was in full swing – to encourage optimal student involvement and to take advantage of back to school excitement.

Based on its research, the team developed an interactive, Internet-based campaign using images and messages that resonated with the target audience.

The Komen Foundation and FH brought on board an event management team skilled at targeting the 18-21 demographic to assist with on-site and logistical implementation. In addition, it tapped into existing Komen Foundation corporate partners to secure donations for college tour prizes and giveaways.

The team developed a College Tour page on the Komen Foundation Web site that included a tour overview and schedule, educational materials in English and Spanish, press materials, involvement opportunities, links to message boards and other pertinent sites along with and photos and updates from the road. The site served as an ongoing educational reference for students, as well as a promotional tool and vehicle for interacting with the Komen Foundation brand.

The team decided to conduct the traveling tour in a vehicle already owned by the Komen Foundation, enhanced with a branded pink wrap including campaign artwork and messaging. The 38 x 15 foot trailer was the cornerstone of the campaign, and opened up into an interactive kiosk. On the open highway, the eye-catching pink trailer served as a billboard on wheels, attracting attention and generating an additional estimated 210,000 impressions from passersby. 

The trailer featured eight interactive computer stations where students could log onto and listen to a breast self-exam (BSE) tutorial; take a quiz to test their knowledge; register for public policy e-newsletters; sign policy petitions; participate in breast cancer polls; and learn how to join the fight against the disease on a local level. More than 3,000 students utilized the interactive kiosk and, during the tour, there were more than 8,000 hits to

To draw students into the event, the team developed eight-foot “graffiti walls” and encouraged students to share their personal messages and stories about breast cancer. In total, 3,714 students signed the walls. After the events, the graffiti walls were displayed at the colleges’ health centers, exposing thousands more students to hopeful breast health messages. Students were encouraged to continue signing the walls, committing to a lifetime of positive breast health practices. 

More than 36,700 educational materials were distributed, including brochures and postcards in English and Spanish, BSE cards, clinical breast exam (CBE) vouchers, local involvement opportunities handouts and other overview materials. These materials were specifically designed to resonate with a young demographic, using appropriate images and language.

As incentive to participate in the educational component of the campaign, prize-entry stations were implemented where participants could win prizes such as a mini pink iPod™ or Pier 1 Imports® gift certificates. To enter the drawings, students had to complete an evaluation of the event, which included specific questions about how the event impacted behavior, such as the increased likelihood the participant would schedule a CBE and perform regular BSEs. To ensure accurate and honest feedback, it was underscored that responses were confidential and in no way impacted eligibility for giveaways. The resulting database not only measures the program’s immediate impact on behavior, but the Komen Foundation can assess students’ ongoing commitment to breast health and utilize the collected contact information in future outreach efforts. Other giveaways were also available, such as GUND teddy bears and designer t-shirts, to encourage students to participate in tour components.

The team worked with a variety of student volunteer groups, who encouraged student attendance and participation, and provided on-site support and peer-to-peer education. In addition, volunteers from student organizations served as media spokespeople, offering credibility and an enthusiastic local connection. In total, 135 student volunteers participated.

The team provided student groups with promotional flyers and posters, viral e-mails and suggested ways to encourage critical word-of-mouth promotion, including campus announcements, local campus media outreach, Instant Messenger alerts, text messaging and Internet chat room/message board postings. The team also distributed PSAs for college radio stations and student newspapers.

The team worked with health professionals at campus health centers to staff tables, distribute vouchers for CBEs, provide breast health information and demonstrate proper BSEs on breast models.  In total, 16 health centers participated.
Volunteers from nearby Komen Foundation Affiliates attended more than half of the events and provided information about local involvement opportunities. In addition, Affiliate volunteers shared their personal stories of breast cancer detection and survival.

The team conducted comprehensive national and local media outreach in support of the tour, securing 36 interviews and/or placements and generating more than 8.5 million impressions, reaching additional audiences with important breast health information and underscoring the Komen Foundation brand as one committed to providing breast health information to all demographics.

Fleishman-Hillard’s first goal was to directly reach at least 20,000 young women age 18-21 with positive, credible, life-saving messages about breast health; build database of young women for future programs/outreach; allow opportunities for young women to interact and form associations with the Komen Foundation brand.
∑ 28,400+ students attended events
∑ 3,250+ student evaluation forms collected
∑ 3,700+ graffiti wall signatures 8,000+ hits to 36,700+ pieces of educational material distributed

Fleishman-Hillard’s second goal was to generate five million impressions mentioning the Komen Foundation to build awareness of its initiatives targeted to this audience.
∑ 8.5 million national and local media impressions 2,339,000+ broadcast impressions 848,600+ print/online impressions
∑ 36 interviews and/or placements and 210,000 drivers, passengers, and pedestrians witnessed images and messages from trailer wrap.

Fleishman-Hillard’s third goal was to provide involvement opportunities for Komen Foundation Affiliates and develop other grassroots relationships to set the stage for an ongoing program.
More than half of neighboring Komen Foundation Affiliates participated and approximately 135 students and 16 student health service organizations supported the event.

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