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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: mhogan@uncfsu.edu) 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@ uncfsu.edu). Health Marketing Quarterly, Vol. 24(1/2) 2007 Available online at http://hmq.haworthpress.com 2007 by The Haworth Press. All rights reserved. doi:10.1080/07359680802125840 51



collected. Implications of the use of sponsorships for future blood drives are discussed. KEYWORDS. Blood donation, sponsorship, promotion, healthcare marketing

INTRODUCTION The use of sponsorships as a marketing tool is increasing dramatically (Cornwell and Maignan 1998). One reason for this increase is the bottomline contributions that sponsorships can bring to the corporate sponsor. For example, Cornwell, Roy, and Steinard (2001) found that managers of sponsorships perceive that sponsorships can contribute to brand differentiation and financial value, as part of integrated promotional effort. Moreover, the venues considered appropriate for sponsorship have also been extended. For example, commonplace sponsorships beyond a specific sporting event include stadiums (Clark, Cornwell, and Pruitt 2002) as well as cultural and arts related events (Cornwell and Maignan 1998). Cause-related marketing is also increasing, though its impact on the audience may be more mixed. For example, Roy and Graeff (2003), report that athletes involved in a cause-related sponsorship are perceived to have an improved image, 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. Research on the use of sponsorships in the medical industry is less well developed. 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. Still, some research suggests that healthcare providers may benefit from the use of sponsorships. For example, 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. 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. A key to predicting the likelihood of sponsorship success appears to be the goodness of fit, or congruence, between the sponsoring firm(s) and the event. Cornwell, Pruit and Van Ness (2001) find that the degree of event congruencethe logical match between the

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products of the sponsor and the nature of the eventaffects the degree of benefit the sponsor receives from sponsorship. High congruence products lead to higher benefits; while lower congruence products lead to lower benefits. For healthcare organizations, 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. This paper reports on the use of a sponsorship to increase blood drive donations. The sponsorship was a yearly holiday promotion/stakeholder appreciation campaign conducted by a large local group of gastroenterologists.

BACKGROUND Blood procurement organizations, commonly referred to as blood banks, continue to be challenged with maintaining a ready supply of blood products in the face of steadily increasing demand. The demand within the United States is estimated to be 38,000 units of blood every minute, with a blood transfusion needed by about five million individuals each year (American Blood Centers 2007). Further, blood products have a short shelf-life (42 days), requiring a continual input of fresh blood. National disasters, extensive disease outbreaks or local surges in traumatic injury rates can create unanticipated dramatic increases in demand. This probability has led to the development of contingency plans for enhancing and protecting the national blood supply (AABB 2003). Recruiting qualified blood donors is an ongoing major concernwhile an estimated 60% of the population is eligible to donate blood, only about five percent actually donate. Yet, blood is a renewable resource. The donors blood is naturally regenerated in a relatively short time frame. As a result, donors are allowed to repeat donation every two months (Fisher, Garfinkel, Pavlovshy, et al. 2006). In spite of these challenges, the blood supply within the United States is the envy of much of the world, since comparatively the United States enjoys an adequate supply that is considered safer than supplies in most other countries (Fraser 2006). Indeed, on occasion suppliers within the United States have shared blood with developing countries in times of dire need (Ashraf 2002). In many countries (especially developing countries), blood banks are primarily structured as for-profit businesses. Donors are paid and the industry is loosely regulated, if at all. Such an environment creates a greater



likelihood of lax safety controls and a contaminated blood supply (Fraser 2005). For example, a 20-year study found that 45% of blood donations in developing nations are not screened for either HIV or Hepatitis C, creating an otherwise avoidable risk. Similarly, within poor countries, an estimated 10% of new HIV infections have been linked to contaminated blood supplies. Even within more developed countries, problems remain (Blajchman and Eleftherios 2006; Hladik, Dollard, and Mermin 2006; Editorial 2005). For example, 95% of the blood supply in India was deemed unsafe in 1996 (Ashraf 2002). Similar issues in Peru led to a massive effort to improve screening of donors (Fraser 2005). After reviewing the global blood safety issues, the Pan American Health Organization recommended that blood procurers should target having at least 50% of blood donations from altruistic sources (Fraser, 2005). Yet even this movement toward better controls in acquiring a safe blood supply reveals new challenges. For example, 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. For instance, 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, Gurgel, Lathrop, et al. 2006). In contrast to the practice of offering monetary incentive programs for donors, 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. In addition to laboratory monitoring, a change in the manufacturing process was mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to include a fulllength donor questionnaire and educational materials for donors (United State Food and Drug Administration 2006). This improved process has provided further assurance of safe blood products. The intensified screening of donors, however, has compounded the challenge of donor recruitment, because the screening process reduces the number eligible to donate for a variety of reasons. For instance, age, taking certain prescription medications, travel outside of the United States and many other circumstances may eliminate the possibility of donation. Leading representatives of the blood procurement industry include the American Red Cross (the largest supplier of blood products), the American Association of Blood Banks (representing approximately 1,800 centers), and Blood Centers of America (with about 600 collection sites), working together to monitor and supply the country with needed products. All have developed support materials to facilitate blood

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

Used with permission.



ring physician newsletter (G.I. Consult). Additionally, the practice has an ongoing relationship with an advertising agency and thus access to media buys as needed. Annual holiday events also were both timely and supportive of the notion of a blood drive. 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. During the holiday period each year, the group traditionally uses a direct mail piece (holiday greeting) to thank those who refer patients to the group. The mailing list includes about 900 individuals and also includes other stakeholders important to the groups ongoing success. Typically, the group has made a donation to charity in the name of those on the list or has provided a celebratory event, inviting referring physicians employees and their children. Both the physicians and employees of the group participate in such events. For example, 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. The group also sponsors their own softball team, known as the Raging Roids, the name being a word play on the common malady, hemorrhoids. Similarly, an annual running event is called G.I. Track Stars (a play on G.I. tract). Because gastroenterology often entails what many consider to be distasteful areas, the group uses humor in promotional and patient education efforts.

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, thus creating a sense of employee ownership. She proceeded to plan the drive for the following six months, using the pre-existing marketing resources of the group and in collaboration with Mississippi Blood Services, a local not-for-profit blood procurement organization, established in 1979, that is affiliated with the American Association of Blood Banks. It is the only licensed blood center headquartered in Mississippi, with seven drawing stations and multiple distribution centers across the state (Mississippi Blood Services, Inc. 2007) The blood drive was the largest such drive planned in the area for the month of December. The target goal set for the campaign was 40 Units of blood (re-

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quiring at least 50 volunteer donors, assuming that roughly 10 would be deferred after screening). The groups office, centrally located in Jackson Mississippi was used as the donation site. Their conference room was converted for donations by adding six stations (donation tables) for the event. Minimal financial investment of the group was involved. A two-week employee contest to develop a slogan for the drive was implemented with a $50.00 award to the winner. The winning entry was chosen by the graphic designers within the ad agency employed by the group. Long-sleeve red T-shirts were designed and printed with the chosen slogan and were used as incentives for blood donations. Employee donors had the additional incentive of wearing the T-shirt to work during the holiday season. In honor of each donor, a $15.00 cash donation was also given to a local orphanage. Reportedly, the employees were fighting over access to T-shirts when two days after the campaign ended, there were only 20 T-shirts left and they were all sized double extra large. Custom designed T-shirts printed in limited numbers have historically been highly valued by the employees, who over the years have accumulated a collection of favorites. Samples of the promotions are shown in the Appendix. RESULTS The blood drive resulted in 92 volunteer blood donors, with a total of 70 Units of blood collected. 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. Mississippi Blood Services staff felt that the campaign was highly successful relative to the size of the organization, exceeding anticipated goals (Jackson 2007). An unanticipated result of the drive was the large number of employee donors, suggesting a strong internal promotional
TABLE 1. 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



effect. As a consequence of these positive outcomes, the group anticipates adding the blood drive to the list of annual events, further supporting the community.

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

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profit contexts and medical practices. Finally, the possibility that a marketing tool, in this case a sponsorship, can contribute to increased levels of employee satisfaction should be more carefully studied (Hausman and Mader 2004). REFERENCES
AABB. 2003. Disaster Operations Handbook: Coordinating the Nations Blood Supply During Disasters and Biological Events. Interorganizational Task Force on Domestic Disasters and Acts of Terrorism Bethesda, MD: American Association of Blood Banks. Accessed March 23, 2007 from http://www.aabb.org/Documents/ Programs_and_Services/Disaster_Response/dohdbk030503.pdf Americas Blood Centers. 2007. Fifty Facts About Blood. Accessed March 15, 2007 from http://www.americasblood.org/go.cfm?do=Page.View&pid=12 Ashraf, H. 2002. News, policy and people: US blood banks offer supplies for poor children. The Lancet, 35, (9): 1134. Blajchman, M. A. and C. V. Eleftherios. 2006. The continuing risk of transfusiontransmitted infections. The New England Journal of Medicine 35 (5):1303-1305. Clark, John M., T. Bettina Cornwell and Stephen W. Pruitt. 2002. Corporate stadium sponsorships, signaling theory, agency conflicts, and shareholder wealth. Journal of Advertising Research 42 (6): 16-32. Cornwell, Bettina T., Clinton Weeks, and Donald Roy. 2005. Sponsorship-linked marketing: Opening the black box. Journal of Advertising 34 (2): 21-42. Cornwell, T. Bettina and Isabell Maignan. 1998. An international review of sponsorship research. Journal of Advertising 27 (1): 1-21. Cornwell, T. Bettina and Rachel K. Smith. 2001. The communications importance of consumer meaning in cause-linked events: Findings from a US event for benefiting breast cancer research. Journal of Marketing Communications 7: 213-29. Cornwell, T. Bettina, Donald P. Roy and Edward A. Steinard . 2001. Exploring managers perceptions of the impact of sponsorship on brand equity. Journal of Advertising 30 (2): 41-51. Cornwell, T. Bettina, Stephen W. Pruit and Robert Van Ness. 2001. The value of winning in motorsports: Sponsorship-linked marketing. Journal of Advertising Research. 41 (1): 17-31. Editorial. 2005. Blood supply and demand. The Lancet. 36(5): 2151. Fisher, E., J. Garfinkel, S. Pavlovshy, D. Irby, andJ. Katz. Aug 22, 2006. Leading blood groups continue successful Bloodsaves campaign with launch of animated superhero. . .The Red Defender. Retrieved Jan 16, 2007 from: http://www.aabb. org/Content/News_and_Media/Press_Releases/pr060822.htm Flegel,W.A.,W Besenfelder and F.F. Wagner. 2000. Predicting a donors likelihood of donating within a preselected time interval. Transfusion Medicine 10:181-192. Franke, Richard Herbert and James D. Kaul. 1978. The Hawthorne experiments: First statistical interpretation. American Sociological Review43 (5): 623-43. Fraser, B. 2005. Seeking a safer blood supply. The Lancet 36 (5):559-60



Godlin, G., P. Sheeran,M.Conner, M. Germain, D. Blondeau, C. Gagne, D. Beaulieu and H. Naccache. 2005. Factors explaining the intention to give blood among the general population. Vox Sanquinis 89:140-149. Gregori, L., P. V. Gurgel, J.T. Lathrop, P. Ewardson, B.C. Lambert, R.G. Carbonell, S.J. Burton, D.J. Hammond, and R.G. Rohwer. 2006. Reduction in infectivity of endogenous transmissible spongiform encephalopathies present in blood by adsorption to selective affinity resins. The Lancet 36 (8): 2226-30. Hausman, Angela V. and Deanna Mader. 2004. Measuring social aspects in the physician/patient relationship. Health Marketing Quarterly 21 (3): 3-26. Hladik, W., S.C. Dollard, J. Mermin, A.L. Fowlkes, R. Downing, M.M. Amin, F. Banage, E. Nazaro, P. Kataaha, T.J. Dondero, P.E. Pellett, and E.M. Lackritz. 2006. Tranmission of human herpes virus 8 by blood transfusion. The New England Journal of Medicine35(5):1331-38. Kevin Jackson, Mississippi Blood Services Representative. 2007. Telephone Interview. Roy, Donald P. and Timothy R. Graeff. 2003. Consumer attitudes toward cause-related marketing activities in professional sports. Sport Marketing Quarterly 12 (3): 163-72. Schreiber, George B., Karen S. Schlumpf, Simone A. Glynn, David J. Wright, Yongling Tu, Melissa R. King, Martha J. Higgins, Debra Kessler, Ronald Gilcher, Catharie C. Nass and Anne M. Guiltinan. 2006. Convenience, the bane of our existence, and other barriers to donating. Transfusion 46: 545-553. Surez, Isabel Maria Belda, Antoria Fernndez-Montoya, Andrs Rodriguez Fernndez, Antoria Lpez-Berrio, and Manuel Cillero-Peuela. 2004. How regular blood donors explain their behavior. Transfusion 44: 1441-1446. United States Food and Drug Administration. October, 2006. Guidance for Industry: Implementation of Acceptable Full-length Donor History Questionnaire and Accompanying Materials for use in Screening Donors of Blood and Blood Components. U.S.Dept Health and Human Services, FDA, Center for Biologic Evaluation and Research. Available at: http://www.fda.gov.cber/gdlns/donorsaq.htm

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Front of shirt: G I really need your blood!! Back of shirt: Give the Gift of Life to Save a Life. It takes guts to be a blood donor! Dont be a Grinch Give Blood G I think you need to give blood for Christmas! GIm glad I gave! Dont be gutless Give Blood! We want to stick it to you this holiday seasonGive Blood Its in us allgive blood G I had a Happy Holiday . . . 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.