In late September 2015, Live Sugarfreed was launched in the Tri-Cities region of northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia. This campaign takes on the epidemics of obesity and diabetes by discouraging the consumption of sugary beverages. Live Sugarfreed delivers messages through multiple media channels, reinforced with on-the-ground efforts encouraging organizations to adopt policies that promote healthier beverages.


Rates of obesity and diabetes are rising nationally and in the Tri-Cities region.  In Tennessee in 2013, 69% of adults were obese or overweight (a sharp rise from 50% in 1996), and 12% had physician-diagnosed diabetes. Studies are increasingly showing a link between consumption of sugary drinks and both obesity and diabetes.

With the importance of local community support, we convened an advisory group of health and community leaders in the Tri-Cities region. This advisory group included representatives from the two major hospitals, the region’s largest employers, local and state health departments, and the local university, among others. This advisory group helped choose the campaign target, shape campaign messages, and coordinate on-the-ground activities with the campaign. 

Target Audience

Males and females aged 18-44



  • Increase awareness of the health risks sugary drinks
  • Reduce the consumption of sugary drinks
  • Encourage organizations to adopt policies that promote healthier beverages

Campaign Development

National data show that consumption of sugary drinks is highest in young adults. In the summer of 2015, we developed a number of initial message concepts and tested them with focus groups of young adults in the Tri-Cities region. In the focus groups, participants were aware that sugary drinks could cause weight gain and had health risks, but they did not view those risks as very important and did not feel compelled to change their own consumption. Participants responded well to three of the initial message concepts. We refined these three concepts and then tested them with an online survey of 107 adults in the region. One specific concept – a comparison of the health risks of sugary drinks to those of cigarettes – was strongest in causing survey respondents to view sugary drinks as dangerous and to reconsider their own consumption. However, participants wanted ads to include recommendations on the beverage(s) they should consume instead. These results shaped the core messages of what is now the Live Sugarfreed campaign. These messages are delivered with extremely simple executions, in part because limited budgets required that we keep production costs low and in part because the simplicity of the ads increased their emotional impact.

Campaign Execution

The Live Sugarfreed campaign includes:

  • Two video ads (each with 30- and 15-second versions) distributed on broadcast television, cable television, and digitally (YouTube and Hulu)
  • An audio ad distributed on Pandora
  • Static digital ads distributed on Facebook (newsfeed and side-rail)
  • Social media pages (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) with active engagement
  • A website ( explaining the risks of sugary drinks and showing how organizations can get involved
  • Outreach to 400 local organizations, including distribution of “e-blasts” (Live Sugarfreed messages distributed by email), posters to be displayed at worksites, and an “Action Kit” of materials to help interested organizations adopt healthier beverage policies
  • A launch event involving local leaders, which was covered prominently by local newspapers and by all three local television stations
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Process Metrics

The campaign began on September 22, 2015 and continued until January 2016. Metrics are shown below.

  • Video
    • Broadcast TV – 4,415,000 gross impressions
    • Cable TV – 844,000 gross impressions
    • Hulu – 520,185 completed views
    • YouTube – 1,687,701 impressions / 328,230 completed views
  • Audio
    • Pandora – 2,324,000impressions
  • Static Images
    • Pandora – 2,324,000 impressions
    • Facebook – 2,865,725 impressions (2,606,141 right-hand rail, 259,584 newsfeed)

For the purpose of media purchasing these impressions are in adults ages 18-49. The target area has a population of 798,000 people, of which roughly 300,000 are in that age range.

As of March 2016 we have received pledges to adopt healthier beverage policies from 195 organizations, representing 29,153 employees.

Outcome Evaluation

We will evaluate the Live Sugarfreed campaign with both subjective and objective measures of changes in beverage attitudes, purchases and consumption. The evaluation will include:

  • Telephone surveys of 1,000 adults age 18-44 pre- and post-campaign (2,000 surveys total) to measure attitudes, self-reported purchases, and self-reported consumption.
  • Sales data on sugary drinks from 316 stores in 17 counties in the campaign intervention area and 4 counties in a demographically similar control area.