Baxter Healthcare Corporation is the world’s leading manufacturer of products for peritoneal dialysis (PD - also called home dialysis) and also provides products and services for hemodialysis (HD).  

Despite the fact that 16 million Americans are at risk for kidney disease, there is little attention paid to this disease.  Most of those at risk are not even aware of it.  

While most people know of HD, where a kidney disease patient travels to a dialysis center multiple times a week to undergo dialysis sessions, few people (including kidney disease patients) have heard of PD, a therapy that allows people to dialyze nearly anywhere – at home, work, and while traveling.  

Our mandate was to raise awareness of kidney disease and treatment options such as PD.  Our approach was to elevate the status of kidney disease to generate enhanced awareness using a celebrity spokesperson. 


We analyzed market research showing that education about treatment options significantly impacts kidney disease patients’ choice of treatment.  For example, a recent study showed that when kidney disease patients receive comprehensive education on kidney disease and treatment options, 45 percent would select PD.  However, according to United States Renal Data System (USRDS) data, only 12 percent of patients actually select PD as their dialysis treatment.  We leveraged this data in our campaign to highlight the need for education about kidney disease and all available treatments.

Baxter sought to raise the level of public awareness about the disease and all available treatment options including PD.  In partnership with Baxter, we researched celebrities who have a tie to the disease and found Sean Elliott, NBA player for the San Antonio Spurs, who suffered from kidney failure and underwent a highly publicized kidney transplant in August 1999.

Burson-Marsteller conducted a media audit of Elliott and his recent media coverage.



Generate widespread media coverage to increase awareness about kidney disease treatment options and encourage those at risk to learn all they can about PD

Generate awareness of toll-free number and website,


People with kidney disease, their family, friends and caregivers

People at risk for kidney disease


Sean Elliott was fortunate enough to have a transplant rather than dialysis.  However, for most people with kidney disease, a transplant is not an option due to lack of donors.  Therefore, we sought to educate Elliott about all treatment options, including PD, so he could educate others newly diagnosed with kidney disease to empower them to make informed treatment decisions and consider PD.  Burson-Marsteller and Baxter arranged a luncheon that included Elliott, a kidney patient educator (a nurse who educates newly diagnosed patients on their treatment options), and three patients on dialysis so that they could share their experiences and help Elliott understand more about PD and the human experience in making this choice.  

Burson-Marsteller and Baxter worked with Elliott to help him shape his story to make it impactful and motivating for consumers to learn about the disease and all available treatments. We also worked with Dr. John Burkart, a renowned nephrologist, to help him educate consumers about the importance of kidney disease awareness and treatment options.

Burson-Marsteller and Baxter reached out to and partnered with the two influential kidney patient advocacy groups, the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) and the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), to help elevate the education message and further heighten awareness.

We also partnered with the NBA and San Antonio Spurs to lend support to the media campaign and create online links for distributing information.

After researching potential platforms for launching the campaign, we decided to leverage the one-year anniversary of Elliott’s transplant to launch the program.

Together with Baxter, we developed a broadcast public service announcement (PSA) and cadre of educational materials on kidney disease and treatment options for people at risk and already diagnosed to learn about the disease.  The PSA was distributed nationally and the materials were available to consumers via a toll-free number and website that we publicized as part of the media outreach.


Leverage the first anniversary of Sean Elliott’s kidney transplant to create a platform for conducting an educational awareness campaign about kidney disease

Elevate status of kidney disease to generate enhanced awareness through celebrity involvement 

Cast a wide net through disease education to motivate patients and their families to learn about available kidney disease treatment options


We launched the educational campaign with a national media blitz.  We distributed a press kit complete with press release, pitch letter, backgrounder on end-stage renal disease, backgrounder on treatment options, and bios on Elliott and Dr. Burkart to print media.  For broadcast media, we developed video and audio news releases featuring Elliott and Dr. Burkart and conducted a 4-hour satellite media tour.  We also distributed a national broadcast PSA.  To increase media impact, we simultaneously released all of the materials while conducting a two-day New York media tour with Elliott and Dr. Burkart and conducting national and local and media outreach.  


Burson-Marsteller was hired in late June.  The anniversary of Sean’s transplant was in August, which was our media angle.  Therefore, Burson-Marsteller had only six weeks to coordinate details and logistics of the campaign.

Rumors were circulating in the sports media that Elliott might retire from basketball in August.  If he announced his retirement prior to the campaign, this had the potential to usurp campaign media coverage.  Therefore, we had to develop contingency plans.


Nearly 240 million print, television, radio and Internet impressions were generated.

Placements included live interviews on Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, WCBS News 2 at 4:00, WB-11 Morning Show in New York as well as several national and Chicago radio programs

The SMT included stations in 14 of the top 25 markets

The VNR received 132 placements 

The ANR generated nearly 300 placements

The PSA generated more than 3,600 telecasts to date

We secured Elliott’s participation on live chats on, and

The overwhelming majority of placements contained the campaign key messages about the importance of understanding kidney disease and all treatments, including PD, and included the toll-free number or website URL for patients to sign-up to receive additional information.
The campaign was highly cost effective – each placement cost less than 1/10 of one penny!