Behind The Work


Senior Writer and Editor
Patricia Murphy joined Havas Group in October 2019 as a Senior Editor and Writer. She has a background in digital journalism and content creation.

Every year, nearly 47,000 Americans die from an accidental opioid overdose, enough people to fill an entire baseball stadium. The astonishing statistic was the springboard for Village X and Emergent Biosolutions to highlight the tens of thousands of lives tragically lost to overdose annually, a figure that’s only climbing as we continue to move through the pandemic. As sporting events prepared to resume following the Covid-19 pause, Village X spotted an opportunity for the client, which produces Narcan nasal spray (an overdose reversal medication), to join forces with Major League Baseball. As the players returned to the field and the games were broadcast, social distancing restrictions kept fans from attending the games in person. Instead, they were encouraged to show their support by sending in a photo of themselves to be transformed into a cardboard cut out to sit in the stadium’s stands.  

MLB’s fun fan engagement was a spark of inspiration for Village X, who saw the initiative as a creative and meaningful way to raise awareness of opioid addiction in the US. The campaign, “#CutoutOverdoses,” shines a light on people whose lives were sadly cut short by overdose. The emotional stories, told from the perspectives of the victims’ loving families and friends, were placed in the stands at The Great American Ball Park (home of the Cincinnati Reds) and Citizens Bank Park (home of the Philadelphia Phillies) during games throughout August and September.  

The campaign guided its audience towards an incredible virtual stadium, crafted by Havas Mango, which showcased the touching memories left behind by those who died, and highlighted a drive to change perceptions surrounding overdose.  

Tara Erickson, EVP Director of Client Services at Village X, said: “We knew that International Overdose Awareness Day (August 31) was coming up and we thought it would be a great idea to combine this cause with the return of MLB and engage with its audience.”

“Our idea was born from the fan cut outs and we wanted to make a play on this with ‘#CutOutOverdoses’ to align with this very important awareness day. We’re seeing a rise in opioid overdoses in the US, even more so in the pandemic, when it was already an epidemic before. There is more reason than ever to make people more aware and it was a good fit for our client.” 

Tony Morrone, SVP Creative Director of Village X said the personal stories highlighted within the campaign were especially emotional, and its success is testament to the selfless advocacy of the bereaved families and friends.

“When you are touched by overdose, invariably you become an advocate to raise awareness,” he said.

“I spent hours talking to these families and hearing their stories as they talked about their loved ones. With this campaign, we didn’t want to communicate about the drugs or the overdose itself; we wanted it to be a celebration of life. I think people sometimes think you know the type of person who overdoses or you know who is supposed to have Narcan in their homes just in case, but the truth of it is that overdoses can happen to anybody. Experiencing these diverse stories about people who had so much more life to live goes a long way in helping everyone realize it can just happen to anyone.” 

Using MLB as a platform also fulfilled the campaign’s goal to raise awareness about the opioid problem within sports.

Erickson said: “I think the angle of sports is one that we want to continue to pursue because there is such a stigma around opioid addiction and people’s minds usually spring to illicit, and people kind of shut off and think it is not about them. But it’s not that way with sports. There are injuries where you do need an opioid to deal with the pain and it’s a legitimate drug you need. But with that comes a risk of having an overdose.”

The project is a story of collaboration, says Erickson, and a true testament to the power of the Havas network.  

“From Village X, to HSE, to Havas Media, Studio6, HPS, Magma and Havas Mango, everyone stepped up and came together to pull off this ambitious and important project,” she said.

“All of this was ingenuity that was born out of necessity. Covid has pushed us to a place where the collaboration is instantaneous but it’s more far reaching than it’s ever been before,” said Morrone.

The impactful work is something that personally touched the team working on the project, said Erickson. 

“You have to sometimes step back and look at your work and think, we really have an opportunity here to make a difference and I hope we did that with this work,” she said. 

To explore the campaign in greater depth visit:

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