Colon cancer is the second deadliest cancer in America. When the screening age was lowered in 2021 to 45 from 50, 20 million more Americans became eligible for colonoscopies, but 80% of them still haven’t been screened. In addition, Black Americans are 35% more likely to die from colon cancer than non-Hispanic White Americans, and younger adults are being diagnosed at higher rates. Colon cancer is now the deadliest cancer for men under 50 and the second deadliest for women under 50. Yet, the disease is preventable and highly survivable when detected early. LEAD FROM BEHIND (LFB), powered by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, was created to make colon cancer famous, leveraging pop culture and smart humor to spread a very urgent message about this preventable cancer.
LFB’s first two videos featured Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s polyp-induced punchlines, followed by Terry Crews as ‘President Camacho’ on a colon cancer screening stump. Together they amassed nearly 19 million video views, 5.6 billion earned media impressions and over 420,000 social engagements. With this third video, “Sh!t Talk,” LFB aimed to:
1.Diminish the stigma;
2.Broaden the audience while appealing to the target population, Black Americans aged 45-59 who are average risk for colon cancer and eligible for screening;
3.Raise awareness that colon cancer is preventable and survivable with timely screening;
4.Raise awareness of screening choices for those of average risk in need of a more convenient or affordable option; and
5.Raise awareness among younger adults, for whom colon cancer onset is rising fast.
After LFB’s viral debut, leveraging celebrities to inject humor on a very sensitive topic (cancer) – which suffers from stigma due to its anatomy (the colon), the commonly known screening method (colonoscopy), and the crude imagery it often conjures (buttocks and fecal matter) – the initial challenge before us was manifold, as reflected in our strategy, to:
Dallas Cowboys superstar quarterback Dak Prescott helped us to meet #3, 4, and 5 of our strategy. As a 30-year-old, he would not ordinarily be eligible for colon cancer screening. However, as a biracial Black American whose mother died from colon cancer, his passion for this issue is cemented. Reaching 4.5 million on socials and millions more weekly during the NFL season, Prescott, appeals to Americans of all races and ages.
On December 8th, 2023, Prescott launched our latest video, ‘Sh!t Talk,’ on his social media channels. The creative concept leveraged Prescott’s reputation for attracting on-field criticism:
NFL trash talk is raging. As usual, Prescott is getting plenty of ‘sh!t’ – but this season he flips the script: (1) he led the Cowboys to a third-straight winning record and (2) has a positive message – even for the trash talkers. The twist is that Prescott uses a test sample collection container to not only demonstrate the simplicity of getting screened at home (a colonoscopy alternative for average risk people 45 and older) – but also to subtly ‘sh!t’ on his playoff rivals, sticking images of a dolphin, 49er, the color brown (Cleveland) and eagle on the bottom of the test sample box without using trademarked logos. As the video ends, Ryan Reynolds appears as a self-deprecating voiceover (and Deadpool sticker) to deliver a requisite, yet funny, disclaimer regarding the test’s intended use. The video’s end card directs viewers to LeadFromBehind.org, where they can learn about symptoms and other risk factors for colon cancer, get a personalized screening recommendation, and download stickers from the video (which were a big hit).
The video was a success for a few key reasons:
(1) Prescott’s audacious rib on rivals was new and surprising to his fans and detractors alike;
(2) the message was simple and direct;
(3) we used sarcasm to subtly arouse football fans and capture the attention of a younger audience, stopping short of being outright offensive; and
(4) we launched the video at the right moment, two days before a critical Cowboys vs. Eagles game ahead of the playoffs.
Prescott released the video on his Instagram and X channels with the caption, “Probably gonna get a lot of $h!t for this.” The video garnered over 10 million views when it launched and 15.5 million views to date.
The video earned a 6-minute TODAY Show segment and in total, earned 2.3 billion media impressions and 468 media placements, including People, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, Adweek, and Men's Journal. Ian Rapoport retweeted it, saying, “Maybe the best PSA I've ever seen.”
In addition, 23 celebrities and influencers, with a combined 13 million social media following, engaged with the video. Celebrity engagers included Alyssa Milano and Loni Love, and other influencers included Joel Bervell, Grace Amaku, and Austin Chiang – demonstrating resonance with entertainers, social commenters and healthcare professionals from diverse backgrounds – helping us to reach their audiences.
The video garnered over 125,000 social engagements on owned posts alone, demonstrating its resonance with football fans and others. DMs comments and email reflected that the video is changing minds, breaking colon cancer’s stigma, and motivating people to get screened. Highlights included:
“Hm… didn’t know there were other testing options. Thanks for these informative posts.”
“I have often wondered how these kits work? Now I know. Great way to raise awareness with a smile.”
This type of direct market feedback is exactly what we were seeking as confirmation that LFB, with this video especially, is making colon cancer approachable, empowering people with testing choices, and motivating our target market to get screened.