People are more and more aware of the dangers of concussions for athletes. What is not very well-known is that concussions are just part of the story.
Playing contact sports, especially football, often results in repeated hits. Each one causes brain trauma, even if it doesn’t cause a concussion. And these repetitive hits add up to long-term risk for the debilitating, deadly brain disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
This is especially concerning for young people, because the earlier they start playing tackle football, the longer they will experience repetitive hits, which increases their risk for CTE. Our client made us aware of a study that showed a strong correlation between starting tackle football at a young age and the development of CTE—a stronger correlation, in fact, than that between smoking and developing lung cancer over time.
It was shocking. Our challenge was to make people aware of the findings of the study, published in the Annals of Neurology, and convince them to keep kids from playing tackle football until the age of 14.
The study was powerful, but we knew that simply putting out data wouldn’t be enough. Playing football is a time-honored tradition in our culture; it’s a formative part of countless childhoods. Given the emotions involved, we were convinced that we had to do something dramatic to get attention and begin to change people’s beliefs.
The “Tackle Can Wait” campaign illustrated, in vivid fashion, the dangers of kids playing youth tackle football.
We started with a PSA spot targeting parents of children under age 14 in which young football players are given cigarettes by their parents and coaches. As we watch the kids puff away, we realize the absurdity. We wouldn’t let kids smoke, so why would we let them do something as dangerous as tackle football before age 14?
The PSA was aired on both broadcast and connected TV. To supplement the spot, we launched paid social assets to drive our audience to a website to learn all the facts in an engaging, easy-to-follow way.
Lastly, we supported our client in boots-on-the-ground tactics, developing an informational “cigarette pack” that unfolded to reveal not cigarettes, but several key insights from the study that drove home our message. The cigarette packs were distributed in several legislative hearings in states evaluating a ban on tackle football for children under 14 as well as during interviews secured with the media surrounding the study and campaign.
The campaign has been a complete juggernaut. Our PSA was picked up by every major news network, and it was covered extensively in print, television, online, and news media. We were featured and talked about in:
Our website, PSA, and social media efforts overwhelmingly performed either at or above benchmark, garnering billions of impressions from hundreds of thousands of users. Notably, a good portion of placement value was secured in-kind through the support of our partners.
But perhaps what we are most proud of is the fact that several state legislatures are currently debating proposals that would regulate tackle football before the age of 14. A bill in California is titled Tackle Can Wait in honor of the campaign, demonstrating its impact and success in an immeasurable way.