New SickKids campaign puts 'fierce' new face on what it means to be sick
Four-part commercial features hospital patients staring down adversaries like cancer in gripping battle scenes
Battle scenes lifted from Braveheart, fight scenes akin to Rocky and a motorcycle peeling down a hospital corridor.
Those are among the scenes of a big, bold and very intense new campaign by the Hospital For Sick Children highlighting the strength of kids so often labelled "sick."
The campaign, titled "VS," set to the pounding beat of the rap song Undeniable by Donnie Daydream, depicts hospital patients, past and present, kicking, punching and battling adversaries like cancer, liver failure and cystic fibrosis.
'How fierce these children really are'
The public will get its first big taste of the campaign Saturday during the Toronto Maple Leafs home opener when the first of a four-part series of commercials, called Anthem, will make its debut.
In the spot, 11-year-old Malachi Brown is shown training hard, hitting a heavy bag as if getting ready for a big bout.
"I had to do push ups, I got to box a punching bag, run through smoke... really fun," said the Mississauga boy.
Brown faced the fight of his life at the hospital when he underwent a heart transplant at just seven months old. The ad ends with him standing next to a tiger, opening his mouth in a mighty roar.
"He definitely beat the odds," said his mom Anne-Marie Brown. "This campaign is amazing. It just speaks volumes as to how fierce these children really are."
'The most important thing is you think twice'
Priced at a cool $2-million, including production costs and media buys, the fierce theme will be what the hospital projects in its television ads, online and in social media, as well as on billboards and streetcar wrapping. Hospital foundation CEO Ted Garrard says the cost is in line with the foundation's two-percent spending target of annual fundraising revenues on branding.
But its the commercials' daring take on what it means to be sick that he thinks will cause some controversy. And that's the point.
"The most important thing is you think twice about it," said Garrard. "What we are hoping is, even if people find it uncomfortable, they will say, 'Ok, why are they doing this? What's the story they are trying to tell?'"
"We want to jolt people on the sidelines people who would not have thought of getting involved with Sick Kids before."
At Friday's launch, in an auditorium full of staff, hospital patients and their families, the first ad clearly struck a chord.
"I'm beyond impressed with the video," said nurse Ashley Spielgel. "To me it portrays them as I see them: As warriors.
"I think this is a nice contrast to prior campaigns to show that are kids are really tough and strong and fierce."
The campaign will be the foundation of one of the hospital's largest fundraising initiatives in history and one of the largest ever undertaken in healthcare, Garrard says.
Next year, he says, Sick Kids will launch a $1.3 billion dollar campaign to raise money to rebuild the clinical part of the hospital, fund research and improve systems to provide children's healthcare.