SBJ/20090727/From The Field Of

Athletes, sponsors can realize value of cause-related marketing

There are fewer dollars to go around for charity these days. Corporate sponsors are scrutinizing ROI like never before.

These are no longer the golden days when sponsorship dollars flowed like Moet or Cristal to top athletes. In these times, athletes trying to raise funds for their charitable foundations need to get creative. They need to be problem solvers and reach across the table to their sponsors to offer solutions to their problems.

The silver lining is that just about the only marketing budgets that are growing these days are for cause-related marketing. It just won’t fly to lay off 30 percent of your work force one month and take 100 of your best clients on a Super Bowl junket the next.

According to a survey by Boston-based brand strategy firm Cone Inc., 75 percent of consumers were more likely to buy a product when a portion of sales go toward a specific cause. Moreover, 52 percent of those surveyed said corporations should maintain their commitment to giving in tough times. Or, as founder Carol Cone cleverly stated, “Good is the new black. Like black, it never goes out of style. To re-frame what value means today is really smart.”

Tanya Collins, director of insight and planning for OgilvyAction, agrees. She believes the new question for brands in these tough times is, “How do you do both: How do you re-frame the value equation beyond price?”

Charitable sponsorship may be a very good answer.

Professional athletes and sports teams are in a unique position to offer added value to their sponsors at low or no cost in ways that can produce such gratitude that sponsors will surely not forget their help when the economy improves.

Here are some ways that athletes can help their sponsors and their charities at the same time:

Ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Yao
Ming Foundation and sponsor Reebok teamed
to announce earthquake relief efforts in China.

If you’re a marketable athlete, hold your next charity fundraiser in the showroom of the local Lexus dealer. Invite your teammates to show up and help drive traffic into the sponsor’s showroom. If you want them to support you, help them first by delivering customers to their doorstep.

If you are not into holding events, promote sales in other ways. Ask the dealer to donate a certain amount of money for every vehicle sold in a certain month and offer to do a meet-and-greet on a Sunday during that month to help drive traffic to their showroom. Similar promotions can be arranged with virtually any business and any product.

If your charity has a database of donors and friends, offer to design an incentive program by telling your supporters that for every item they purchase at Store X, a donation will be made to their favorite charity: yours! Times are also tough for your contributors, and giving them an opportunity to support you while at the same time buying something they would need to purchase anyway is ideal.

Target companies that sell products to the same demographic that your charity targets. If your charity supports dogs or cats, approach a company like Petco to support your charity. It is within their marketing mission to be as visible as possible and to endear themselves to people who love dogs and cats.

If your charity funds diabetes research, see if you can become a national spokesman or spokeswoman for a pharmaceutical company looking to find drugs to treat or cure diabetes. The company gets a visible and popular face to help promote their sales, and by supporting a charity that funds research, they may also benefit down the road from being the beneficiaries of that very research.

If you are a sports team, you are in a perfect position to reach out to sponsors to help them. Your team has assets: players and a fan base. There are innumerable ways in which teams can mobilize their players and their fan bases to benefit sponsors.

For example, an NBA team could hold a “sponsor recognition night.” At halftime, each team sponsor gets to show a short video on the Jumbotron that showcases its charitable or community activities. The crowd sees these sponsors in a whole new light, the charities they support get invaluable free exposure, and the team gives their sponsors yet another valuable benefit that did not cost them a penny. The same could be staged at a baseball game during the breaks between innings.

These are tough economic times; there is no getting around that. But times like these create opportunities for a celebrity athlete or team to employ a “help me help you” philosophy of sponsorship.

Doing well by doing good is still very much in vogue; it is just a whole lot harder to do well. So be creative, and help companies move product. In the long run, they will be more able to help you, and together, we may just help pull ourselves out of this recession.

Marc Pollick ( is the president and founder of The Giving Back Fund, a national public charity that helps athletes, entertainers and others establish and maintain charitable foundations and programs.

Return to top
Video Powered By - Castfire CMS Powered By - Sitecore

Report a Bug