National MS Society: Off My Wave CSR Initiative to Bring Back the Surfer to Life

National MS Society Off My Wave CSR Initiative to Bring Back the Surfer to Life Enterprise Wired

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Multiple Sclerosis comes as a nightmare for people. With the exact reason still unknown, it’s said to be an auto-immune disease. Any cure as such hasn’t been discovered for it. It is the potential disabling of the brain and the central nervous system. Some organizations like The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) come as saviors. The organization’s vision is a world free of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). To spread awareness about MS Awareness Week, the organization on-boarded the advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, Portland.  

The initiative of the National MS Society to spread awareness about Multiple Sclerosis has won hearts. The local surfing maestro Steve Bettis was diagnosed with progressive MS in 2006. Steve, a resident of Ocean Beach, CA was a stud in surfing but has been suffering from MS for the past 50 years. Quite naturally he was told to stop surfing as it was not recommended for his health anymore. The collaboration of Wieden+Kennedy and the National MS Society via the “Off My-Wave” campaign made the experience more than real for Steve. 

The Campaign:

Steve’s good friend and professional longboarder Robert Weaver took the plunge to give the same nostalgic feeling to his friend once again. He went surfing with the help of a 360-degree VR camera rig. The collaboration of a Melbourne-based VFX studio, Luma, John X Carey at Tool of North America, and Wieden+Kennedy made it possible.

National MS Society Off My Wave CSR Initiative to Bring Back the Surfer to Life Enterprise Wired
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The collective effort made it possible to transport Steve to his golden period. The transcendent feeling that Steve enjoys, the movement and motion of limbs was perfectly immersive for him. A person who suffers from MS cannot have much sensation in the limbs. Exactly that was experienced by the surfer which was the highlight for him. The Virtual Reality experience was truly a trip down memory lane for Steve. All thanks to the conscious efforts of the National MS Society and Wieden+Kennedy. 

Key Elements of the Campaign:

  1. Instant Nostalgia:

MS had taken some experiences from Steve Bettis. The same experience was recreated for him via the use of Virtual Reality. As the video was published of Steve enjoying the experience of virtual reality, the joy on his face can be seen. The video was in the form of storytelling which made the viewing experience more immersive and engaging. Steve will be forever thankful to the National MS Society and Wieden+Kennedy for their heart-warming gesture, especially for him.  

  1. Increased Donations:

On the part of the National MS Society, they got a lot of recognition for their collaborative effort. People praised them for bringing out the story of Steve. Until then, people were not aware of such a great man who strives every day with the condition of MS. The organization got recognized enough for its efforts and started to receive a lot of donations in cash and kindness. 

  1. Steve became an Inspiration:

For newbies, Steve became an inspiration. The surfer community was evoked with emotions and respect for Steve. He received a huge amount of emotional support via the outpouring of messages and well-wishes from his supporters. This campaign allowed Steve to connect with others living with MS and their families. Thus, offering them a ray of hope and resilience. Steve was back to life via the actions of Wieden+Kennedy and the National MS Society. 

  1. Use of the Technology:

As mentioned above, the visual experience was imparted via a Virtual Reality (VR) device. In the pre-production stage, a lot of issues were needed to be considered. The topic of discussion was what best way can the surfing experience be caught on camera. Every camera was housed in its waterproof case. Each camera was a bit further apart than it would’ve been without the cases.  

Leveraging Virtual Reality for Social Good:

National MS Society Off My Wave CSR Initiative to Bring Back the Surfer to Life Enterprise Wired
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  1. Raising awareness through immersive storytelling:

Virtual Reality imparts a profound storytelling platform that allows brands to engage audiences in enticing narratives. The use of VR was the masterstroke of the National MS Society. By formulating virtual experiences that convey real-world issues brands can effectively raise awareness about various social causes. Organizations are making use of VR for transporting viewers to remote locations affected by environmental disasters or social injustice. Through this method of storytelling, brands can educate and engage their audience, fostering empathy and understanding. 

  1. Advocating for social change:

Brands are accepting virtual reality with social movements to advocate for change through virtual experiences. Brands, by highlighting issues like gender inequality and poverty, try to immerse viewers in the day-to-day lives of diminished communities. This VR experience provides a chance to engage with social change, especially on a personal level. It encourages others to become more active and make the world a better place to live. 

  1. Assisting persons with disabilities:

Virtual Reality technology is helping people with disabilities to overcome challenges and enjoy the experiences that otherwise they may not have. Brands are developing virtual reality experiences that especially cater to specific disabilities such as formulating virtual worlds for people with mobility issues. These initiatives promote inclusivity and equal access to experiences that the majority of people take for granted. 

Virtual Reality, CSR & a Noble Deed:

National MS Society Off My Wave CSR Initiative to Bring Back the Surfer to Life Enterprise Wired
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  1. Journey of Empathy:

Imagine stepping in the shoes of a surfer who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. Via leveraging Virtual Reality Steve Bettis could now get near real-time experience. The joint effort of Wieden+Kennedy, the National MS Society, and Robert Weaver understood the story of Steve. It is a journey of empathy that transcends traditional forms of storytelling, and it plays a vital role in driving corporate social responsibility. 

  1. Raising Awareness and Compassion:

The National MS Society was determined to give Steve a nostalgic feeling. The primary reason for the campaign was to raise awareness. By donning the headset, viewers are immediately transported to Steve’s world, where the exhilaration of being on the waves is met with the discomfort of a body that doesn’t respond as it should. By viewing through the headset, viewers get to understand the daily challenges faced by people with Multiple Sclerosis. 

  1. Expanding the Reach of CSR:

Virtual Reality surpasses the geographical boundaries that allow charity organizations to expand the reach of their charity initiatives. This campaign for Steve, for example, can be experienced by people all over the world. This reach allows charity organizations to create a more significant impact on a broader side. Like the National MS Society did, other charity organizations also get inspired and moved, and attempt something like this. It adds value to people’s lives and makes an impact too. 


The National MS Society went on to become an angel for Steve. Empathy is the main aspect that was covered in this campaign. Getting into someone’s shoes, understanding the person’s state of mind and physical disability, too, understanding the passion he had for the sport is phenomenal. Imparting that experience to Steve was an instant emotional ride for him. Sheer happiness while viewing the whole experience via the headset was thoroughly enjoyable for Steve. This campaign has earned praise from famous magazines like Creativity, Mashable, AdWeek, etc. This campaign is a true example of humanity at its best.



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