Breast Cancer Research Foundation - Pink Mercy Skin

Exhibited by
Lucy Casey
Added
October 24, 2019
Medium of Communication
Online
Target Audience
Gamers
Type of Charity
Health
Country of Origin
USA
Date of first appearance
May 2018

SOFII’s view

Could this be one of the most significant fundraising campaigns of recent years? We certainly think so. Tapping into the huge reach of the video games industry was a brilliant achievement by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation as, with over forty million gamers in the UK alone, the potential financial benefits for their cause are massive. With an ‘on-brand’ in-game development and the full support of gaming company Blizzard, BCRF made a huge splash in the game Overwatch, raised millions of dollars and showed just how video game companies and fundraisers can work together in style.

Summary / objectives

To fundraise for Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Background

This innovative initiative was the result of a partnership between Blizzard Games, games developer, and US charity Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Blizzard Games approached BCRF with the idea of creating an in game ‘skin’ to raise money for their cause. A skin is a piece of downloadable content, a new look and costume for your in-game avatar that can be earned or bought in game. 

They agreed the ideal character for this would be the Mercy character in Blizzard’s game Overwatch. Mercy’s background in the game is a microbiologist and she is the most powerful healer in the game; so a great alignment to the BCRF cause. The ‘Pink Mercy’ skin was developed and available for only two weeks as a limited edition skin for the character which could be bought for $15. A limited edition T-shirt ($30) was also made available, which sold in its thousands. In addition 14 of Overwatch's star players held live streams on Twitch on each day of the campaign - during their streams, any bits or donations received would go toward the BCRF. Blizzard also released special pink Mercy emotes to celebrate the event.

The initiative raised a staggering $12.7m in just over 2 weeks. 

Creator / originator

Blizzard Games and Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Special characteristics

New industry – this is the first instance of a charity initiative breaking into the multi-billion gaming industry at scale.

New audiences – this initiative reached new audiences not traditionally reached by charities, interacting with them wherever they were playing.

Authenticity led to success – the initiative held true to the behaviours and passions in the gaming community:

  • Skins themselves are sought after and collectable so making one that was only available for a limited time only was bound to be appealing.
  • Donations triggered through existing behaviours such as in-game purchases and tips shared on the online channel Twitch.
  • Well-considered character alignment.
  • Investment in beautiful artwork and design done by a community artist. 

Influence / impact

Funds raised through the Pink Mercy initiative paid for:

  • Three critical programs that examine every aspect of a breast cancer diagnosis.
  • Innovative prevention research
  • Five new clinical trials in 2018.
  • Annual research grants to 29 researchers.

Stephanie Kauffman, BCRF's Chief Strategic Alliances Officer, said: 

'Blizzard Entertainment’s record-breaking commitment to activate change for women’s health by mobilising the gaming community worldwide will have a lasting impact. Blizzard’s support of BCRF will help accelerate breakthroughs in prevention strategies, improved treatments, survivorship and quality of life for breast cancer patients worldwide.'

Costs

There were very minimal costs to the charity as Blizzard Games took on development costs. 100 per cent of both the t-shirt profit and the income from the skin went to BCRF.

Results

  • The campaign raised $12.7m in two weeks - the largest single donation by a corporate partner in BCRF’s 25-year history.
  • The streaming campaign raised $130,000.
  • Around 800,000 people bought the in-game skin.

Merits

This is the first example of a charity initiative breaking into the gaming industry at scale. This is significant due to the immense size and potential of the gaming market – 50 per cent of the UK population are gamers and the the value of the UK gaming industry is £3.86 billion, accounting for half of the UK’s entertainment market. Overwatch alone, the one game this initiative was launched in, has 40 million active users - that’s bigger than the population of Canada.

It’s an important breakthrough case study that all fundraisers should take stock of. The global gaming industry is worth $116 billion - there is plenty of space for many more initiatives like Pink Mercy. 

This campaign was showcased at SOFII’s flagship event I Wish I’d Thought Of That (IWITOT) London 2019.

BCRF teamed up with leading video game designers Blizzard for the campaign, with Blizzard covering design costs.
Blizzard created a new version of their character Mercy that gamers could purchase.
The campaign raised over twelve million dollars.