PM360 2020 Trailblazer Awards Diversity/Multicultural Brand Champion Mike Edwards

Mike Edwards, Director, Consumer Marketing, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation

Too often, patients with sickle cell disease live in the shadows, misunderstood or ignored, stigmatized, and forgotten. This rare disease affects 100,000 people in the U.S., and is most common among African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and people of Middle Eastern, Asian, Indian, and Mediterranean descent. Mike Edwards knew any engagement with this community would have to be different, with authenticity and empathy at the forefront.

Starting with Generation S, Mike and his team partnered with Jordin Sparks, who lost her stepsister, Brianna, to sickle cell disease and put out a call for more personal stories. The campaign encouraged people and their loved ones to tell their stories. They shared their challenges and triumphs, and Novartis formed a community around these interactions. To build on this, Mike created live Rock the Block events that foster engagement within the community and continue to grow disease awareness.

For example, via a walk-through simulated blood vessel people could take guided tours and interact with 3D blood cells to better understand their disease. An interactive mosaic wall of Generation S stories and storytelling booths allowed the community to hear how others faced similar issues and to share their own story. And DJ appearances helped add energy and positivity while providing a sense of community.

Mike’s efforts helped shine a light on the struggle sickle cell patients endure and encouraged patients and loved ones to share their stories. The results show he succeeded: More than 17,000 enrolled in the programs; over 1,100 stories were shared; and the campaign received 30,000+ likes on Facebook, 1.3M+ impressions on YouTube, and 3.5M+ website views.

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