Why Ovarian Cancer Australia is pursuing brand partnerships

Retail, brand and not-for-profit alignment is one way this Australian charity is driving up awareness. We find out more


Every eight hours, one woman dies in Australia from ovarian cancer. Unlike some other forms of gynaecological cancer, ovarian cancer has no early detection test, meaning many women are not diagnosed until the cancer has reached its more advanced stages. This makes ovarian cancer the most lethal female cancer.

This outcome is constantly on the mind of Jason Olive, chief marketing, fundraising and communications officer at Ovarian Cancer Australia (OCA). Olive joined OCA in late 2021 after a working as marketing director for Movember and has adopted a clear goal of both raising awareness of ovarian cancer and raising funds for new diagnoses and treatments.

But rather than taking on the challenge alone, Olive is driving a strategy that uses partners to extend OCA’s reach as far as possible.

Despite the high mortality rate for ovarian cancer, Olive says research suggests awareness among women is low, with two out of three sufferers not having heard of the disease before diagnosis. Most are also not aware of the symptoms, which are often difficult to distinguish.

One of the key partners for OCA for the past your years has been Hanes Australasia, owner of iconic brands such as Bonds, Jockey, Kayser and Berlei. Olive says OCA and Hanes have worked together to raise awareness through various campaigns, including the latest one developed by agency, Special Group, which encourages women to 'Take On Cancer In Your Undies'.

“The idea behind the campaign is to raise awareness, but also to allow people to take action,” Olive tells CMO. “What we need more than ever is for people to donate, because it is one of the most underfunded cancers in the sector.”

While Olive has been grateful for Hanes’ continued support, he has also been challenged by the knowledge that many women around Australia may not have got the message yet regarding ovarian cancer.

“One of the things we were really conscious of was needing to make sure we demonstrated national reach, because we see ovarian cancer as something that can affect women in regional areas,” Olive says.

That reach was achieved by bringing a new retailer into the partnership – Coles Supermarkets – an organisation Olive says has already been a strong OCA supporter. Working with large stakeholders is not a new experience for Olive, who spearheaded similar partnerships at Movember.

“It is really important when we do a partnership with somebody that we are actually looking to the mutual goals of that organisation,” Olive says. “Quite often, you will see these brand partnerships and it will be a case of the brand partnering with an organisation but there isn’t necessarily a clear link.

“We had to really spend some time thinking about the mutual goals for Hanes and what Coles was looking to achieve and build that into a really robust brief for the agency.”

A key element of that brief was realising the campaign needed to simplify what it was asking consumers to do.

“Charity campaigns can become really layered and complex. Our job to do was basically to tell people that buying these pants essentially unlocks greater support for women with ovarian cancer,” Olive says. “The reason we selected this idea is it works really well in a retail environment. A lot of donated media placement we have secured through media agency, OMD, is very straightforward when it comes to the message we are trying to deliver.”

Making partnerships sing

Olive notes several requirements for making partnerships between multiple parties work. “The biggest one for me is setting really clear expectations and goals and being really clear where the roles and responsibilities sit,” he says.

“When we sat down and put this brief together, we had to make sure everybody was really on board with the metrics we put in place, to make sure we were clear on what Hanes needed and wanted, and likewise with Coles.

“That included not just the volume of sales we wanted to hit and distribution we wanted to hit nationally, but even marketing metrics as well that pertained to PR and the reach we wanted to deliver through donated media.”

That led to creation of a KPI matrix, tracked since the launch of the campaign in April. “It is a case of making sure you do all of that upstream, so you are not getting halfway into the campaign and trying to figure out what each ultimately needs,” Olive says.

“There are slightly different goals each of these organisations are striving for, so we have regular WIPs with the agency, with Coles and with Hanes.”

Having Coles as a partner has helped OCA extend its campaign across the retailer’s 630 stores nationally, allowing it to share information including through point-of-sale displays and on product packaging.

“The kind of support we are seeing is amazing,” Olive says. “We are in the magazine, we are on Coles Radio in-store, and there are lots of different touchpoints that probably wouldn’t have been available to us previously.

“It allows us to get to regional and remote communities. And for Coles, they have thousands of staff nationally, and if we can help them talk about the signs and symptoms around the disease, then we know that women are more likely to notice the symptoms.”

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