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Volume 23 No. 13
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American Cancer Society puts value on authenticity

Hockey Fights Cancer, one of the initiatives that ACS is involved with, has raised more than $20 million.
Photo: getty images
Hockey Fights Cancer, one of the initiatives that ACS is involved with, has raised more than $20 million.
Photo: getty images
Hockey Fights Cancer, one of the initiatives that ACS is involved with, has raised more than $20 million.
Photo: getty images

The American Cancer Society is one of the sports world’s most prominent partners when it comes to giving back. For years the ACS has collaborated with teams in nearly every major sport with the goal of defeating cancer.

“We want as much money raised going in the right direction as possible,” said Sharon Byers, chief development, marketing and communications officer. “We don’t care if it comes to us or if it comes to someone else, we just want to make sure we’re solving the cancer issue that’s across the United States.”

Whether it’s league initiatives, like the NFL’s Crucial Catch or the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer, or teaming up with individual athletes, the ACS has an overriding priority when selecting its partners.

“We want to make sure that it’s an authentic approach to impact cancer,” Byers said. “We want to work with leagues or individuals that have an authentic connection to cancer and have a very strong point of view of how they want to present their campaign or fundraising.”

But Byers doesn’t expect the leagues or athletes to come to her with fully formed ideas ready to be launched as campaigns — that’s why she’s there. The partners bring concepts and fundraising goals to Byers, and then she and the ACS figure out the best strategies to help raise the most money.

“All of the organizations, whether it’s the coaches, the NFL, the NHL, they look at us as the experts on which initiatives are most impactful for the objectives they want to make,” Byers said. “We execute all the programs with their support, and then we circle back and tell them the amount of people they impacted based on the funds they raised.”

As a greater emphasis is placed on social responsibility in sports, Byers has seen a number of ACS initiatives expand. The ACS partnership with the NFL began in 2009 and focused on breast cancer awareness in October, but now includes the five major types of cancer and lasts throughout the year — amplifying both fundraising and awareness. Byers believes the growth in sports is in line with what customers want from every industry.

“Whether your brand is an individual athlete or a team, a league or a company, in today’s world, consumers have an expectation that the for-profit world is taking a portion of its profits and putting them in the most impactful ways to change the world,” Byers said.