Column: Can a good cause be good for you?

A how-to on harnessing cause-related marketing to break through the clutter...
September 1, 1998

A how-to on harnessing cause-related marketing to break through the clutter

Marketing to children and families has become very competitive due to the clutter in the marketplace from entertainment promotions, sampling, couponing, premiums and just plain advertising. However, one niche that is directly reaching the moms who make household purchasing decisions is cause-related marketing.

When American Express helped raise US$1.7 million for the Statue of Liberty restoration effort in 1983, many industry pundits thought it was just a fluke, a passing fad. They were wrong. Cause-related marketing has proven to have staying power, and continues to grow at a rapid pace. In 1997, International Events Group estimated that more than US$500 million was raised for worthy causes. In addition to American Express, companies such as Visa, Sears, Circle K, Miller Beer, Continental Airlines and AT&T have developed ongoing marketing campaigns.

When combined, cause marketing and entertainment promotions make a recipe for a winning marketing campaign. In the past few years, entertainment companies such as Warner Bros., DC Comics, Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment have allowed their properties to be used in cause promotions. These programs have raised funds for non-profit organizations, as well as increased both exposure for the properties and sales of related products.

For two years, Archie Comics lent its characters to a cause campaign for United Cerebral Palsy (UCP). Waiving traditional licensing fees, Archie Comics allowed UCP to pitch fundraising programs featuring its characters to corporations for cross-promotion deals, and then supported each campaign by placing ads in its comic books, and by allowing partners to use the Archie characters for on-pack promotions and advertising. In return, Archie Comics fulfilled on-pack premium offers.

Jimmy Dean Foods placed Archie on more than two million boxes of sausage products, dropped a free-standing insert to 40 million U.S. households and offered consumers in-store coupons. A percentage of sales was donated to UCP and the promotion raised US$100,000. In a similar promotion, Ore-Ida Foods saw a 14% increase in sales of its two-pound size bag of Tator Tots, raising more than US$70,000.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation benefited from cross-promotional partnerships supporting the release of the Hallmark Home Entertainment video, Annabelle’s Wish, by Ralph Edwards Films. The film company donated US$1 million to further the organization’s mission. Other film partners, including Mrs. Field’s Original Cookies, American Airlines and Golden Books, also made contributions.

Saban Entertainment’s TV character Captain Kangaroo has been selected as Reading Is Fundamental’s (RIF) national ambassador, and has spoken at numerous events and readings. In developing a long-term branding partnership, Saban’s licensees, including Harper Collins Publishers and Cendant Software, will make donations based on all merchandise sales.

Universal Studios has also announced that it will support RIF with its upcoming film release, Babe: Pig in the City. Film partners Random House and Dole Foods will incorporate consumer overlays whereby consumers can receive a free Babe plush toy with four proofs of purchase from Dole Foods products. Dole will donate US$1 for each toy, to a maximum amount of US$25,000.

These examples demonstrate some of the ways in which a cause component can be incorporated into an entertainment cross-promotion in order to create win-win relationships and raise valuable funds. Most charities are eager to participate because if the promotion is implemented well, they have the opportunity to establish long-term partnerships with corporations.

Here are some tips for developing the right charity partnership for your promotion:

- Find the proper contact person. Since cause promotions raise funds, you should contact either a VP or director of development.

- Make sure your product matches up with the nonprofit. The charity should be appropriate for both the brand and the entertainment property.

- Treat a nonprofit’s logo like a licensed property. The logo represents the image and reputation of the charity. Most nonprofits have strict regulations on how the logo can be used.

- The nonprofit should provide a return on investment for its role in the partnership by providing: access to its donor database (for example, newsletters or mailing lists); a volunteer base; active chapter or affiliate support; Web site links; editorial or promotions; opportunity to cross-promote with existing events such as a telethon or walk-a-thon; outreach to existing corporate partners for promotions; and support with grassroots public relations.

- The nonprofit should be well established and recognized by the mainstream public.

- Make sure the charity has a strong history in partnership marketing.

Scott Pansky is the account supervisor for San Diego, California-based The Gable Group’s entertainment promotions and cause marketing division, which specializes in partnership marketing for both corporations and nonprofits.

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