Super Bowl Committee Kicks Off Blood-Donation Campaign Tied to Big Game

Andrew Kitchenman | July 31, 2013 | Health Care
Intense two-week effort launches six-month drive to raise New Jersey’s subpar donor rates

Johnson & Johnson's Peter Fasolo says encouraging participation in blood drives is one way J&J gets employees involved with the community. The company is participating in a statewide blood drive tied to the 2014 Super Bowl.
Want a chance to win tickets to the 2014 Super Bowl? Donate blood, and you might find yourself with seats for the game to be played next year at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.

The hosts of the 2014 Super Bowl have continually said they want to leave a legacy. But one of their goals for having a lasting impact may be surprising — they want to use the big game to boost New Jersey’s blood donation rate.

The state’s rate has long been one of the worst in the nation. Fewer than 4 percent of eligible residents – currently, 3.6 percent – donate blood. The national rate is 5 percent.

The New York/New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee saw that low rate as an opportunity when they were choosing a charitable project, leading to the Super Community Blood Drive, which was launched yesterday during an event at Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick.

Donors who give blood during the drive will be entered into a lottery to win Super Bowl tickets.

The drive is being launched with a two-week campaign, with 20 different, large local blood drives. While there will be more frequent drives during this two-week period, the Super Bowl tie-in promotion will continue until January, when the tickets will be given away.

“There’s a chronic blood shortage in New Jersey,” said Doug Mehan, the host committee’s director of grassroots development. “Using the platform and the excitement of the Super Bowl, we felt we could really rally the community around something that can make a difference in the community.”

Mehan said the long-term goal is to introduce new blood donors to a lifelong habit of giving. “We want this legacy to be maintained after the game is over by establishing new donors and new companies that will host blood drives,” he said.

State Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd noted that the state had a successful blood drive campaign last summer – with donations increasing by 11 percent – which officials believe the new drive can build on.

“Perhaps due to the inspiration to potentially win Super Bowl tickets, new people who hadn’t thought of being donors or weren’t regular donors may participate in this,” O’Dowd said. “And then potentially we could set a new standard in terms of them being lifelong donors.”
“You’re expanding the numbers of individuals who are aware of the need” by appealing to football fans, O’Dowd said.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. Vice President Kevin Rigby, co-chairman of the New Jersey Workplace Blood Donor Coalition, said linking the drive to the massive public attention on the game would make it easier to get the word out that the state needs more donations.

New Jersey is actually a net importer of blood.

Rigby said that when employers hold blood drives, they address three primary reasons why people don’t donate: They aren’t aware of the need, they find donating blood to be inconvenient, or they just haven’t been asked to give.

Johnson & Johnson marked the launch of its own national blood drive yesterday. The company’s employees gave a total of 34,000 pints of blood nationally last year.

Johnson & Johnson Worldwide Vice President of Human Resources Peter Fasolo said the drive fits with the company’s objective of ensuring that its employees serve their communities.

“I think the business community and large corporations have a unique position, where they can really encourage their employees to do something meaningful, purposeful and it doesn’t cost a dime,” Fasolo said. “It really does enhance the engagement of the workforce – to give something back to their communities.”

Mary Ditri, who leads blood donation efforts at the New Jersey Hospital Association, said it’s good that the initial two-week push is taking place in the summer, when donation rates are traditionally low.

“Because summer, just like the holiday season, is a tough time to get donors out, a campaign like this is very important,” Ditri said. “It keeps hospitals from cancelling elective surgeries and keeps their supply at a safe level.”

The NJHA holds a drive every 60 days, allowing its workers and those at nearby businesses to donate as soon as they are able to. Ditri said she hopes the Super Bowl encourages other employers to take the same approach and hold blood drives on a regular basis.

Click here for more information on the Super Community Blood Drive.