A Peanuts t-shirt offered in conjunction with the American Red Cross was recently in the news for successfully encouraging young-adult fans of the property to give blood. This is the latest in a fairly regular stream of promotions over the past five years or so in which character and entertainment properties are used to attract blood donors. The ventures vary from offering a licensed product as a premium to encourage participation, to more of an endorsement situation where a character or actor tries to attract donors to a particular drive.
- The American Red Cross tied in with Peanuts in April of this year. Anyone who donated blood in a specific window received a t-shirt featuring Snoopy’s alter ego Joe Cool with the Red Cross logo and the caption “Be Cool. Give Blood,” while supplies lasted. The shirt, and fans’ experiences giving blood to get it, went viral on TikTok, which in turn caused a spike of 40% in blood donations during the partnership, compared to the week before. The American Red Cross has done other entertainment promotions in the past. In July 2021, for example, the organization paired with Paramount Pictures, the film Scream and its star Neve Campbell to encourage donations in an ad titled “A Bloody Nightmare.” And back in 2017, it paired with Square Enix to offer a themed bloodmobile tied to the videogame Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood, which made a stop at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, as well as several colleges in Southern California. Fans who donated at E3 received a free t-shirt, also while supplies lasted.
- The Japanese Red Cross Society has long and successfully used premiums tied to manga and anime properties as an enticement for young fans to give blood. Typically, the promotions involve special-edition posters, calendars, file folders, stickers, or other sought-after keepsakes for anime fans. In January of this year the Society paired with Spy Classroom, giving away folders to attract donations at its Kanagawa Prefecture Blood Center during a two-month period. Other properties since 2018 have included, among many others, Cells at Work!, with 15,000 calendars offered as rewards; Fruits Basket, with both folders and stickers available, the latter of which could be exchanged at an Animate store for an original illustration; Demon Slayer, in a well-attended effort in Tokushima involving a poster; Sana Natori, an animated YouTube personality, with posters of the character given away (resulting in double the amount of donors on the first day of the campaign compared to the previous day); and Love Live! Sunshine!!/Aqours, with 20,000 special-edition file folders distributed.
- The U.K.’s National Health Service has gone the endorsement route, working with actors in conjunction with current films to spur donations. In 2022, it enlisted Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen, stars of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, who produced a short film that included clips from the movie and was shared on the social channels of NHS Blood and Transplant, Walt Disney Studios U.K., and Marvel U.K., as well as in two Vue Cinema lobbies at Westfield malls in Stratford City and London. In 2021, the NHS paired with Twentieth Century Studios and stars Ryan Reynolds and Jodie Comer in a similar promotion highlighting the film Free Guy. Donors received a badge themed to the film.
Sometimes, the properties in question are thematically tied to the concept of giving blood. For example, they may contain some bloody violence—blood donors must be aged 17 or older in the U.S.—or feature characters who are nurses or doctors. But the key to success seems to be the offer of some sort of desirable collectible that will draw blood donors, especially younger adults, often for the first time, or a convincing celebrity or two to sway fans to make the trip to the donation center.
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