At age 17, Sam Kimura was diagnosed with acute aplastic anemia, a blood cancer requiring a bone marrow transplant. Typically, family members are most likely to be genetically compatible to donate, but Sam’s older sister, Alex, wasn’t a match. Channeling her frustration into something good, Alex established Sharing America’s Marrow (SAM), a non-profit organization with a mission to recruit bone marrow donors across the country to help her sister, and others like her in desperate need of a match.
Sharing America’s Marrow (SAM for short) is a grassroots movement that finds regular people willing to become heroes by simply taking the time to swab their inner cheek and join the bone marrow donor registry. SAM needed to squash the scary myths of joining the registry and emotionally connect and activate thousands of donors. By targeting college students, the target audience would relate to the women and offer a diverse donor pool. SAM was determined to create a movement for good.
The SAM team needed a brand that meshed their drive to find donors with their optimistic outlook, all while making a cheek swab approachable. Being asked to swab your cheek by a stranger could be perceived as well, weird. Everything we created needed to feel professional, but still fun and bold enough that the SAM crew was instantly seen as friendly and approachable.
The personality of the women behind SAM was so vibrant that it inspired the brand’s overall feel and aesthetic. We harnessed their vigor to instill a sense of passion in everything we made, from branded bracelets to an award-winning website. We also designed their cross-country van, lovingly named Maggie. The brand gave a nod to the heaviness of fighting cancer while letting their adventurous spirit shine.
SAM garnered national media exposure, along with national funding to recruit donors and save lives. The year-long journey to all fifty states yielded 415 bone marrow matches which is 358% of the original goal. The acquisition cost per match was only $374 which was one-third of the cost of matches from global organizations like SAM’s sponsor, Delete Blood Cancer.