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Using a Sponsorship to Improve the Success of Blood Drive Donations

Beth Hogan, PhD Lewis Hershey, PhD Reed Hogan, MD Corley Callum, RN

ABSTRACT. Promoting the idea of blood donation as well as the successful recruitment of blood donors represents substantial marketing challenges. For example, blood products have a short shelf life, donation is invasive, the industry is heavily regulated, and safety issues restrict the number of eligible donors. Moreover, many organizations that collect blood are non-profit services that are not equipped to make use of many of the tools of marketing and promotion. In the for-profit world, organizations are increasingly using sponsorships to enhance the effectiveness of their marketing expenditures. This paper reports on the use of a sponsorship to increase blood drive donations. The sponsorship used a standing annual holiday promotion/ stakeholder appreciation campaign conducted by a large local group of gastroenterologists. Linkage of the sponsorship to a local blood drive resulted in increased response rates from donors and in the number of units of blood

Beth Hogan (E-mail: and Lewis Hershey are Associate Professors, Department of Management, Fayetteville State University, 1200 Murchison Road, Fayetteville, NC 28301-4298. Reed Hogan is President; Corley Callum is Staff Nurse; both are at Gastrointestinal Associates, 1421 North State Street Suite 203, Jackson, MS 39202. Address correspondence to: Lewis Hershey at the above address (E-mail: lhershey@ Health Marketing Quarterly, Vol. 24(1/2) 2007 Available online at © 2007 by The Haworth Press. All rights reserved. doi:10.1080/07359680802125840 51

though its impact on the audience may be more mixed. A key to predicting the likelihood of sponsorship success appears to be the goodness of fit. some research suggests that healthcare providers may benefit from the use of sponsorships. KEYWORDS. Cause-related marketing is also increasing. as part of integrated promotional effort. healthcare marketing INTRODUCTION The use of sponsorships as a marketing tool is increasing dramatically (Cornwell and Maignan 1998). Implications of the use of sponsorships for future blood drives are discussed. Cornwell. Cornwell. and Pruitt 2002) as well as cultural and arts related events (Cornwell and Maignan 1998). For example. Reasons for this include a general lack of familiarity with the marketing practices of healthcare providers on the part of academic researchers as well as the fact that healthcare providers themselves by training are most concerned with the practice of healthcare delivery rather than its promotion. promotion. Still. Their findings suggest that the sponsorship provides a mechanism for increasing the amount of energy and information processing participants in sponsorships bring to bear on the issue at hand. Roy and Graeff (2003). For example. Pruit and Van Ness (2001) find that the degree of event congruence–the logical match between the . For example. commonplace sponsorships beyond a specific sporting event include stadiums (Clark.52 HEALTH MARKETING QUARTERLY collected. Research on the use of sponsorships in the medical industry is less well developed. between the sponsoring firm(s) and the event. Cornwell. report that athletes involved in a cause-related sponsorship are perceived to have an improved image. Blood donation. or congruence. and Steinard (2001) found that managers of sponsorships perceive that sponsorships can contribute to brand differentiation and financial value. sponsorship. For example. One reason for this increase is the bottomline contributions that sponsorships can bring to the corporate sponsor. though customers are less likely to purchase sports team products associated with the cause than they are likely to patronize non-sports firms sponsoring the cause. Roy. the venues considered appropriate for sponsorship have also been extended. Moreover. Cornwell and Smith (2001) study how participants in a sponsorship benefiting breast cancer research generate meanings from the interaction of their a priori beliefs with the explicit goal of the sponsorship.

This paper reports on the use of a sponsorship to increase blood drive donations. et al. Pavlovshy. As a result.” continue to be challenged with maintaining a ready supply of blood products in the face of steadily increasing demand. blood products have a short shelf-life (42 days). if at all. This probability has led to the development of contingency plans for enhancing and protecting the national blood supply (AABB 2003). Such an environment creates a greater . Yet. Donors are paid and the industry is loosely regulated. on occasion suppliers within the United States have shared blood with developing countries in times of dire need (Ashraf 2002).Hogan et al. requiring a continual input of fresh blood. Recruiting qualified blood donors is an ongoing major concern–while an estimated 60% of the population is eligible to donate blood. For healthcare organizations. while lower congruence products lead to lower benefits. since comparatively the United States enjoys an adequate supply that is considered safer than supplies in most other countries (Fraser 2006). 2006). extensive disease outbreaks or local surges in traumatic injury rates can create unanticipated dramatic increases in demand. The demand within the United States is estimated to be 38. The sponsorship was a yearly holiday promotion/stakeholder appreciation campaign conducted by a large local group of gastroenterologists. it follows then that use of sponsorships most directly related to the health benefits of participants should be more effective than sponsorships on non-health related events. Indeed. In many countries (especially developing countries). Further. donors are allowed to repeat donation every two months (Fisher. National disasters. BACKGROUND Blood procurement organizations. High congruence products lead to higher benefits. blood banks are primarily structured as for-profit businesses. commonly referred to as “blood banks.000 units of blood every minute. the blood supply within the United States is the envy of much of the world. only about five percent actually donate.” The donor’s blood is naturally regenerated in a relatively short time frame. In spite of these challenges. Garfinkel. with a blood transfusion needed by about five million individuals each year (American Blood Centers 2007). blood is a “renewable resource. 53 products of the sponsor and the nature of the event–affects the degree of benefit the sponsor receives from sponsorship.

within poor countries. Similarly. Yet even this movement toward better controls in acquiring a safe blood supply reveals new challenges. evolving technology and an improved ability to detect infectious diseases have led to increased restrictions on donors to eliminate the possibility of contagion by an infectious agent. 2005). Even within more developed countries. This improved process has provided further assurance of safe blood products. Editorial 2005).800 centers). has compounded the challenge of donor recruitment. The intensified screening of donors. because the screening process reduces the number eligible to donate for a variety of reasons. and Blood Centers of America (with about 600 collection sites). Gurgel. a change in the manufacturing process was mandated by the U. a 20-year study found that 45% of blood donations in developing nations are not screened for either HIV or Hepatitis C. Lathrop. In contrast to the practice of offering monetary incentive programs for donors. For example. problems remain (Blajchman and Eleftherios 2006. however. travel outside of the United States and many other circumstances may eliminate the possibility of donation. In addition to laboratory monitoring. creating an otherwise avoidable risk. the Pan American Health Organization recommended that blood procurers should target having at least 50% of blood donations from altruistic sources (Fraser. the blood supply in the United States relies almost completely on donations and is continually monitored with rigorous laboratory procedures to assure that no known infectious agents are present. Hladik. pathogens such as spongiform encephalopathy (mad-cow disease) can be acquired through a blood transfusion if that donation has not been properly screened for the disease (Gregori. the American Association of Blood Banks (representing approximately 1. et al. an estimated 10% of new HIV infections have been linked to contaminated blood supplies. For example. Leading representatives of the blood procurement industry include the American Red Cross (the largest supplier of blood products). For example. For instance. After reviewing the global blood safety issues. and Mermin 2006. 2006).54 HEALTH MARKETING QUARTERLY likelihood of lax safety controls and a contaminated blood supply (Fraser 2005). working together to monitor and supply the country with needed products. age. Food and Drug Administration to include a fulllength donor questionnaire and educational materials for donors (United State Food and Drug Administration 2006). Similar issues in Peru led to a massive effort to improve screening of donors (Fraser 2005). 95% of the blood supply in India was deemed unsafe in 1996 (Ashraf 2002). All have developed support materials to facilitate blood . Dollard. taking certain prescription medications.S. For instance.

I. Digest) as well as a referFIGURE 1. Associates employs about 150 individuals. 2006). the group has successfully built brand recognition facilitated by the use of an award-winning logo (see Figure 1) that incorporates the idea that the gastrointestinal system is holistically related to the entire person. G. Thus for “GI” Associates. She then approached a physician within the group and asked whether or not the group would be willing to support a blood drive. et al. such as Bloodsaves and The Red Defender that have facilitated promotional efforts and awareness building (Fischer.Hogan et al. ad campaigns and webbased materials. Given the current scenario in the blood procurement industry. Garfinkel. often known as “blood drives. Pavlovshy. including 13 gastroenterologists. sponsorship provides an avenue to increase the effectiveness of blood donor recruitment efforts.I. The group had a long strategy of community involvement.” LINKING A SPONSORSHIP TO A BLOOD DRIVE: A CASE STUDY The impetus for the sponsored blood drive began when a nurse employed with Gastrointestinal Associates (G. thus the request was congruent with the existing organizational culture and synergistic with promotional strategies. Collaborative efforts with The Ad Council have led to public service announcements.I. The gastroenterology group also had a pre-existing marketing structure. 55 drives by constituent blood banks. The group also publishes a patient newsletter (G. Mississippi heard a plea for blood donations for a child. the middle space of the “G” is shaped like the stomach and the “I” is shaped to resemble a person. Associates) of Jackson. For example. . The logo has extensive recognition in the community and is used on virtually everything within the practice. with materials and annual events that continue to support the addition of unique promotional campaigns. including lab coats and scrubs worn by both the physicians and staff. The GI Associates Logo Used with permission.

inviting referring physician’s employees and their children. The CEO of the group suggested that the promotional needs of the blood drive project paralleled the established marketing communications of the group that were forthcoming. 2007) The blood drive was the largest such drive planned in the area for the month of December. that is affiliated with the American Association of Blood Banks. the group traditionally uses a direct mail piece (holiday greeting) to thank those who refer patients to the group. hemorrhoids. It is the only licensed blood center headquartered in Mississippi. The group also sponsors their own softball team. known as the “Raging Roids. a local not-for-profit blood procurement organization. The mailing list includes about 900 individuals and also includes other stakeholders important to the group’s ongoing success. using the pre-existing marketing resources of the group and in collaboration with Mississippi Blood Services. thus creating a sense of employee ownership. IMPLEMENTATION The nurse who had raised the possibility of sponsoring a blood drive was asked by the President of the group to spearhead the blood drive. the group has made a donation to charity in the name of those on the list or has provided a celebratory event. Consult).I. Because gastroenterology often entails what many consider to be distasteful areas.56 HEALTH MARKETING QUARTERLY ring physician newsletter (G. Additionally. a physician has dressed up as Santa Claus and handed out gifts at one such event. Another example of community involvement is the sponsorship of local athletic events. established in 1979.I. with seven drawing stations and multiple distribution centers across the state (Mississippi Blood Services. The target goal set for the campaign was 40 Units of blood (re- . an annual running event is called G. Inc. Track Stars (a play on G. Typically. During the holiday period each year. the group uses humor in promotional and patient education efforts. Similarly. Both the physicians and employees of the group participate in such events. the practice has an ongoing relationship with an advertising agency and thus access to media buys as needed.I. tract). Annual holiday events also were both timely and supportive of the notion of a blood drive.” the name being a word play on the common malady. For example. She proceeded to plan the drive for the following six months.

Employee donors had the additional incentive of wearing the T-shirt to work during the holiday season. with a total of 70 Units of blood collected. exceeding anticipated goals (Jackson 2007). who over the years have accumulated a collection of favorites. Long-sleeve red T-shirts were designed and printed with the chosen slogan and were used as incentives for blood donations. the employees were “fighting over access to T-shirts” when two days after the campaign ended.00 award to the winner. a $15. A comparison between the Blood Drive Goals based upon previous non-sponsored experience and the outcomes of the Blood Drive when linked with the GI Associates as sponsor are shown in Table 1. Minimal financial investment of the group was involved. Reportedly. suggesting a strong internal promotional TABLE 1.00 cash donation was also given to a local orphanage. The winning entry was chosen by the graphic designers within the ad agency employed by the group. RESULTS The blood drive resulted in 92 volunteer blood donors. centrally located in Jackson Mississippi was used as the donation site. A two-week employee contest to develop a slogan for the drive was implemented with a $50. Their conference room was converted for donations by adding six stations (donation tables) for the event. The group’s office. assuming that roughly 10 would be deferred after screening). An unanticipated result of the drive was the large number of employee donors. there were only 20 T-shirts left and they were all sized double extra large. Samples of the promotions are shown in the Appendix. In honor of each donor. 57 quiring at least 50 volunteer donors. Custom designed T-shirts printed in limited numbers have historically been highly valued by the employees.Hogan et al. Effects of a Sponsorship on Blood Drive Donation Goal Donors Units of Blood 50 40 Outcome 92 70 Gain (Loss) of Sponsorship Impact 42 30 . Mississippi Blood Services staff felt that the campaign was highly successful relative to the size of the organization.

2004) thus employees of G.I. higher levels of enthusiasm for both the annual patient appreciate campaign and the blood drive. and this finding is supported in the results of this study. albeit anecdotally. particularly an established yearly event. Suárez. et al. New to the literature is the finding of increased internal promotional effects: the employees of GI Associates report. Moreover. Cornwell and Smith 2001). As a consequence of these positive outcomes. Cornwell. no formal measures of base line expectations for success and/or employee satisfaction levels were established. Pruit and Van Ness 2001. The use of the annual event as a sponsorship device may account for much of that improved sense of satisfaction. the group anticipates adding the blood drive to the list of annual events.. can improve the expected outcomes for blood donation. since research has indicated that individuals who have donated blood are more likely to donate in the future. et al. Fernández-Montoya.58 HEALTH MARKETING QUARTERLY effect. such as the social interaction effects that influenced outcomes in the Hawthorne studies (Frankle and Kaul 1978). Fernandez. Wagner. Besendelfer. the likelihood of donors that have been introduced to the behavior in this particular venue will be more likely to repeat the behavior in the future (Godlin. Future research should seek to provide measures of such a priori conditions by collecting data on blood drive donation levels with several programs. Glynn. The findings of this study suggest that use of a sponsorship. sponsors with a natural connection to the activity sponsored appear to be a better strategic fit than sponsors with no obvious link. Flegel. further supporting the community. Sheeran. et al. Associates were more likely to actively participate. et al. Intergroup comparisons of that data will expand our understanding of the influence of sponsorships. 2006. Convenience and absence of time-related barriers also support blood donation (Schreiber. However. As a consequence. Conner. 2000). Schlumpf. especially in non- . Further. this study provides a post hoc analysis of a single case. 2005. IMPLICATIONS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH The pressures of maintaining an adequate and safe blood supply in the United States are great. other factors could also account the observed increase in satisfaction.g. Consistent with the literature (e. some using sponsorships and some not using sponsorships.

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Hogan et al. It takes guts to be a blood donor! Don’t be a Grinch Give Blood G I think you need to give blood for Christmas! GI’m glad I gave! Don’t be gutless Give Blood! We want to stick it to you this holiday season–Give Blood It’s in us all–give blood G I had a Happy Holiday . . . . 61 APPENDIX SAMPLE PROMOTIONS USED BY THE SPONSORSHIP DURING THE BLOOD DRIVE Examples of Employee Submissions for Slogan Contest • • • • • • • • • • • • • Front of shirt: G I really need your blood!! Back of shirt: Give the Gift of Life to Save a Life. I gave the Gift of Blood Have guts and give blood Front left chest: GI Associates logo Blood Drive 2006 Back of shirt: Saving lives one drop at a time! (the “o” in drop could be a blood drop) Winning Proposal Used for T-Shirt Promotional Sponsorship Used with permission.