Imagine doctors explaining that you’ve lost half of your lung function after over a year of unexplained symptoms. Unfortunately, this can become reality for roughly 50,000 Americans diagnosed annually with interstitial lung disease (ILD), a rare group of conditions that scar the lungs and can make it difficult to breathe. It often takes years to receive an ILD diagnosis, as symptoms like breathlessness, fatigue, or a persistent dry cough are often confused for more common conditions, making disease awareness and early diagnosis key for disease management – and something Yankees legend and Latin Grammy nominee Bernie Williams knows all too well after losing his father to ILD in 2001.
Motivated by his personal experience as an ILD caregiver, Bernie combined his two passions in life – music and family – and teamed up with Boehringer Ingelheim to launch Tune In To Lung Health, a program that explores how music and breathing can help people cope with the physical and emotional disease burden. Bernie’s celebrity platform as an athlete and musician – coupled with the real stories of ILD patients and caregivers – provided the perfect stage to put ILD in the national spotlight, and Boehringer Ingelheim recognized an opportunity to increase disease awareness, stress the urgency of early diagnosis, and provide much-needed resources to patients and caregivers navigating a difficult ILD diagnosis.
In addition to Bernie’s celebrity platform and personal connection to ILD, Tune In To Lung Health enlisted the voices of people impacted by ILD to inspire and advocate for others to ‘tune in’ to their own lung health. Bernie’s story paired with real narratives created the driving force behind the campaign, with the hope that by sharing their experiences, others wouldn’t have to face the same challenges as the Williams family or patients like Dale, who lost more than 52% of her lung function by the time she was diagnosed. “If I’d been diagnosed earlier, I might be in better shape today,” she said.
With the help of Bernie, patients, and caregivers, Tune In To Lung Health brought ILD awareness to audiences nationwide through a series of targeted in-person and virtual events. Reaching crowds of thousands who were previously unfamiliar with ILD, Bernie leveraged his status as a baseball icon to heighten awareness of the condition at MLB stadiums across the country.
At select MLB games in 2023, Bernie performed the national anthem and the Tune In To Lung Health PSA aired on the jumbotron. In Washington, D.C., Bernie was joined by Dale, who threw the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game. In Miami, he joined Maryluz, who earned a standing ovation making the ‘play ball’ announcement with her ‘new lungs’ from a double lung transplant – with one Marlins fan pulling her aside to tell her it was the best version of ‘play ball’ he’d ever heard. In New York, Bernie joined Cheryl (a patient) and Vera (her sister and caregiver) at Yankee Stadium, where they were honored during a special on-field ceremony, an unforgettable moment for them to experience together.
Tune In To Lung Health further cemented its impact within the ILD community through partnerships with patient advocacy organizations, including the Pulmonary Fibrosis Warriors, National Scleroderma Foundation, Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research, and the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. Once again, Bernie partnered with patients – as well as music therapy and breathing experts – to host a series of virtual webinars and an in-person panel and musical performance.
These discussions – which included expert-led breathing exercises, firsthand accounts of the power of music, and ILD resources – received an incredibly strong response, with a turnout of nearly 300 combined total guests. Most meaningful were the overwhelming messages resonating with support, gratitude, and empathy. One attendee wrote: “Thank you for sharing your story with us about your dad, Bernie. It makes a huge difference when someone like you helps to educate others.”
Inspired by the response and impact from local events and activations paired with patient voices – and a relentless commitment from Bernie to elevate ILD awareness to a national level – Boehringer Ingelheim looks forward to continuing to help at-risk audiences ‘tune in’ to their lung health and provide unwavering support for those affected by devastating diseases like ILD.
54 original media placements with a total reach of 340M+ across local and national consumer, sports, and trade outlets such as SiriusXM, Sports Illustrated, Business Insider, and Good Day New York
8 mentor stories were highlighted as hometown heroes via earned media, for a total reach of 3.2M+
Mentor stories coupled with performances by Bernie at several key MLB events resulted in 19 media placements across local and national publications, with a 6.5M reach in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York markets
3.8M social media impressions and 1M+ completed social media video views across Boehringer Ingelheim channels
National anthem performances at Nationals Park, LoanDepot Park, and Yankees Stadium amplified among combined MLB team social media followings of nearly 4.7M
Patient advocacy partners promoted Tune In To Lung Health via owned social and digital channels, with a 73K+ reach
86.6K TuneInToLungHealth.com visits with 25K+ minutes spent engaging with website content
2.8K+ total video plays for Tune In To Lung Health resources
Significant increases in TuneInToLungHealth.com traffic timed to local events
Following a media day and activation with the Washington Nationals, Tune In To Lung Health page views increased by 89% overall and by 278% increase in the DC area
330% increase in site visits timed Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month
~300 ILD patients and caregivers reached via events with key patient advocacy organizations
Hundreds of comments from audiences demonstrating support and excitement