Though soccer fans in countries throughout the world will unite over the next five weeks to support their nation in the 2014 World Cup, there is no doubt that through it all their hearts remains with their home team.   Nowhere does that ring more true than with fans of Sport Club Recife (SCR), a local team in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco known widely for it’s fiercely passionate fans.  They are born SRC fans, they die SRC fans,  and for the time in between they literally live and breath soccer.  Or as Jorge Peixoto the club’s vice-president for social programs put it; “Everyone is born with football on the soul.” 

It’s obvious that these athletes, and this team, have a great deal of influence over their supporters, but how they choose to focus that influence might not have been so predictable.  The club “must look beyond the 11 players on the field and use its power for bigger things,” said Peixotos.  Did they ever.  Not only did they look beyond themselves, and their sport, they actually helped save lives.

The club started a powerful communications campaign focused on raising awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation, and encouraging their supporters to register to be donor, and start a conversation about donation in their local community.  Their strategy was to push the passion of their fans to create a new kind of fan; the “immortal fan.”  

SCR Donor SportTheir message focused on how the fans could continue to support their team even after death.  A special Sport Donor card was available at the stadium, via an app on Facebook, or by mail for people who registered as a donor during the campaign with the hopes that it would present an opportunity for people to talk to their family and loved ones about their wish to be a donor.   A video screened at the home games featured individuals currently waiting on the transplant list explaining to fans that by registering to be donor their heart could continue to beat, eyes watch, and lungs cheer for Sport Club Recife through the recipients of their organs, eyes or tissue. Great idea, but was it effective?

The answer is yes.

Over 65,000 people have signed up for an organ donor card thus far. “We used to perform from five to seven heart transplants a year, but last year we achieved 28… it was an incredible increase,” says Fernando Figueira, director of heart transplants at Pernambuco’s Institute of Integrated Medicine.  The outcome was an incredible engagement response, reducing dramatically the organs donations waiting lists. Because of the widespread success in Recife  In fact, mega-clubs PSG and FC Barcelona are interested in adopting a similar program.

Click here to watch “Immortal Fan” video.

Radio Joe