What’s new about Prilosec, a ten-year old product and gold standard for the treatment of a gastrointestinal acid-related disorder known as GERD (Gastroesophogeal reflux disease).  Fleishman-Hillard and AstraZeneca needed a fresh approach to continue to generate media and physician interest about Prilosec, a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) at a time when:

  • Several new PPIs were entering the marketplace
  • Medical/health reporters were reluctant to cover GERD again because there had been a great deal of GERD coverage in the past
  • Consumers still confused heartburn, a symptom of GERD, and GERD 
  • Men are more reluctant to respond to GERD symptoms and see a doctor than women.

More than 21 million Americans suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which harsh stomach acid backs up into the esophagus.  GERD is characterized by frequent and persistent heartburn two or more days per week.  If GERD is left untreated, it can lead to more serious conditions such as erosion of the esophagus or in some cases, even cancer of the esophagus.  After identifying sports celebrity, Jim Palmer, who was a GERD sufferer and Prilosec patient of many years, we designed Two Strikes and You’re In…The Doctor’s Office to leverage Jim Palmer’s personal story to educate consumers and physicians about the seriousness of GERD.  Originally tested in 1999, the success of this initial endeavor transformed into a 30-city tour, educating physicians and patients across the U.S. about GERD.


  • Encourage consumers, especially men, who experience frequent and persistent heartburn on two or more days a week to see a physician.
  • Generate media interest not only with medical and health reporters but also sports reporters, utilizing Hall of Fame Pitcher and GERD patient Jim Palmer.
  • Facilitate sales representatives’ communications with their customers.
  • Generate enthusiasm about the success of Prilosec internally at AstraZeneca.
  • Supplement traditional PR tour tactics with online tools.


  • GERD sufferers
  • Healthcare professionals, especially GEs
  • AstraZeneca employees


Commissioned a survey in 1997 that found that more than 21 million adults may suffer from frequent and persistent heartburn, a 10 percent increase since a benchmark survey conducted three years prior.  The results of the survey were recognized by the American College of Gastroenterology, which increased their estimated number of GERD sufferers in the U.S. by three million.  

Conducted research to identify appropriate target audiences for GERD messages.  Found evidence that men tend to ignore signs of pain and illness and often avoid visits to their physicians.  

Identified long-time GERD sufferers and Prilosec patient, Jim Palmer.

Conducted a media audit to identify a celebrity spokesperson that both medical/health and sports reporters’ would be interested in interviewing.  


Based on Prilosec and Prevacid sales data, local sales force interest and media market, identified date and location of tour visits.

Negotiated contract with baseball legend - Jim Palmer as spokesperson.

Recruited sales representatives participation.

Developed physician dinner program and secured regulatory approval.


Partner with a celebrity patient who shared his experiences with the GERD and Prilosec with national and local reporters.

In partnership with the Prilosec sales force, conduct educational dinners where Jim Palmer and a local gastroenterologist discussed physician-patient communication, respective experiences with GERD and highlight benefits of Prilosec for short and long-term management of GERD.

Produce a four part series of webcasts featuring a team of expert physicians and Jim Palmer, discussing the causes, diagnosis and treatment of GERD.

Publicize program events and results internally at AstraZeneca.


The Pitch: Coordinated media interviews for Jim Palmer in 30 markets.  Supporting materials included press kits, b-roll and baseballs (that Jim would sign during interviews).  Throughout the tour, Jim Palmer was able to communicate key messages including:

  • More than 21 million Americans suffer from GERD.
  • Individuals who suffer from frequent and persistent heartburn two or more days per week should see their doctor.  If left untreated, GERD can lead to serious complications.
  • His personal history with Prilosec and the importance of physician-patient communication.
  • Encourage consumers to use the Prilosec website and 800 number for more information.

Taking The Web To Heart (Burn): Produced a four-part webcast featuring Jim Palmer and a team of physicians and focusing on the causes, diagnosis and treatment of GERD.  The website,  www.gerdawareness.com,  served as the stand-alone, customized event site to showcase the webcast series.  Additionally, campaign coverage was secured via different distribution partners including abcnews.com, foxnews.com, baseballhalloffame.org, and GotMed.com.  Additionally, links to the webcast were secured in local markets through our outreach efforts to medical and health and sports reporters.  

Is There A Doctor In The House?: In 16 of the 30 cities Jim Palmer visited, FH worked with local AstraZeneca sales force representatives to coordinate physician dinners.  Jim Palmer partnered with a local gastroenterologist to discuss the importance of physician-patient communications, particularly when it comes to GERD, as well as Jim Palmer’s personal experience with GERD and Prilosec.  Invitations and branded baseballs were produced for the events and an 800 number response line was used for physicians to RSVP to their local events.


Relying on sales force to generate physician attendance at dinners.

Coordinating logistics, as 30 events were held consecutively over a short period of time.


The Two Strikes program resulted in more than 243,749,000 media impressions.  

Jim Palmer participated in interviews with more than 217 media.  Of these outlets, 60 percent of them were with sports reporters.  

95 percent of coverage included positive messages about Prilosec.

Television coverage resulted in 18,324,620 impressions.  Radio interviews totaled 32,430,535 impressions and print 15,605,470 impressions. 

 Jim Palmer’s efforts on the Internet resulted in more than 133,264,500 impressions.  The four-part webcast series resulted in over 48,000 downloads.

The physician dinners helped to educate more than 500 doctors in 22 local markets, increasing the likelihood of Prilosec prescriptions and strengthening the relationship between AstraZeneca’s sales force and the doctors they conduct business with. 

A Wall Street Journal article reported that visits related to GERD rose 12 percent in the year ended May 2000.  Sales data is not yet available regarding Prilosec sales during the program timeframe

Physician Events select comments:

“Thanks for making this program a home run in my territory and during the entire summer!  The Jim Palmer program was fun and I have had a lot of mileage out of the dinner program.” – Pattie Thorner, AstraZeneca, Rochester, Michigan

This is such a great idea, having Jim Palmer here.  Jim Palmer’s speech was great.” – event attendee

“The program idea was excellent and I am happy to be part of it,” Darik K. Taniguchi, M.D.
The overall media tour generated enthusiasm and participation of the AstraZeneca employees via the internal AstraZeneca cafeteria event and the voice-mails that were left by Jim Palmer to individual AstraZeneca employees across the country, thanking them for their participation.