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Volume 21 No. 2

In Depth

Find a cause or charity. Marry it with a high-profile sports league or team. In the best of circumstances, everybody goes home happy. The nonprofit receives media attention it could otherwise never afford, pushing its message to millions of fans. And for the sports properties, the alliance builds good will while conveying a sense of social responsibility.

But, as with any marketing campaign, the perils are many.

“Not only does the cause partnership need to be authentic, and the execution impactful, the message also needs to be easily understood and regularly reinforced,” said Peter Farnsworth, principal at Foxrock Partners, a New York-based brand consulting and cause-marketing firm. “For Timberland and Patagonia, it’s environment. … Whether it’s sports leagues or teams, it’s equally important to constantly reinforce a clearly articulated and simple brand position.”

The NFL's Breast Cancer Awareness campaign began in 2009.
Photo by: Indianapolis Colts
The best examples of sports philanthropy marketing deliver that clear message and take on added impact by involving league or team sponsors and the television networks and websites dedicated to covering games, news and other aspects of a sports property.

Pro football fans know the score on the NFL’s philanthropy emphasis. For active lifestyle, it’s Play 60. For giving back to the military, it’s Salute to Service. And, as anyone who watches football in the month of October, it’s all but impossible to think anything but pink during the NFL’s annual Breast Cancer Awareness campaign.

Breast Cancer Awareness debuted as a signature leaguewide campaign in 2009. Now, heading into its fifth year, it has become a Super Bowl of philanthropy marketing, reaching more than 150 million viewers annually, including 58 million women ages 18 and older.

Along the way, the league has raised a combined $3 million through 2011 for the American Cancer Society. Final results for 2012 are due soon, the league said.

Each year brings tweaks and changes, but a look at the 2012 Breast Cancer Awareness program offers a glimpse into how ubiquitous the NFL has made the pink ribbon and the message of early screening for women older than 40. Last October, the campaign’s features included:

Players wearing pink equipment including shoes, wristbands, sideline caps, shoelaces, chin straps, gloves and skull caps as well as game balls featuring pink ribbon logos and pink kicking tees.

Coaches and other sideline crews wearing pink caps.

Team executives and coaches wearing pink ribbon pins.

Pink ribbon stencils on the playing field at all stadiums, pink wraps on goal posts, and wall banners bearing the tag line “A Crucial Catch.”

Auctions of game-used pink equipment benefiting the American Cancer Society’s breast cancer outreach and screening access to women.

Special pink team merchandise benefiting the same breast cancer programs and sold in stadiums, at Dick’s Sporting Goods stores and on, among others.

Tie-in campaigns with league sponsors raising awareness and money, including Gatorade, Nike, Under Armour, Wilson, EA Sports, Topps, Panini, Riddell, Pro Specialties Group and Longaberger.

As part of the marketing partnership, the American Cancer Society can use the NFL’s pink ribbon shield mark and “A

The cause is made obvious as players sport pink equipment during the month of October, which is breast cancer awareness month.
Photo by: AP Images
Crucial Catch” mark. Team marks are subject to club approval.

Mark Waller, NFL chief marketing officer, said the marketing campaign came together when the league wanted to create an umbrella campaign to enhance what the 32 franchises were doing.

“We wanted something where we could really make a difference, where our female fan base really cared and that had broad interest across the teams,” he said. “And before we started we looked at what every team was doing. The majority of teams six, seven years ago had some sort of initiative around some sort of philanthropic work for the cure of cancer.”
NFL executives liked the idea of working to help prevent or minimize an illness that almost every person, regardless of age or gender, has encountered and wants to see cured or avoided.

From there, the approach the league took was similar to what goes into any marketing initiative, Waller said. The answer, as it almost always does, came back to making the game a major part of the campaign.

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, son of a breast cancer survivor, suggested players wear pink cleats. And the NFL gave players the option to wear pink equipment throughout October, which is breast cancer awareness month. The campaign has mushroomed from there.

“What’s particularly notable about the NFL’s breast cancer campaign is the obvious juxtaposition between the physicality of the game and the color pink,” Farnsworth said. “The message pops. And the league benefits from a dramatic reach to female customers.”

The idea started at the NFL offices, then was pitched to the American Cancer Society. For the league, the cancer society could lend insight and expertise as well as a partner to put the money to work with grants to fund outreach and provide screenings to women who might not otherwise be able to get them.

Plans for 2013 are still in the works, but Waller said the NFL wants to shift from awareness to a call to action. Prevention through early screenings is the best current remedy for breast cancer and will become the main message, he added.

To avoid what Waller called “pink fatigue,” the campaign will likely be narrowed to a two-week window in October. Teams that don’t have a home game during the two-week period would be allowed to stage their Breast Cancer Awareness games either a week before or after the broader campaign.

The NFL measures awareness, attitude changes and behavior changes through research of what fans know and think about breast cancer. Waller declined to share results of the surveys but said the league is happy with the results to date.
“For us, wearing pink gear is not the goal,” he said. “The goal is to get more women screened so less women ultimately suffer from breast cancer. There is a real focus on measuring the performance, not just executing the program.”

The American Cancer Society said the “Crucial Catch” screenings made available through the grant program reached 62,000 women during its first five months.

When the NFL proposed the awareness partnership in 2009, “It was an easy ‘yes,’” said Flo Bryan, managing director of corporate marketing alliances at the American Cancer Society. “Look at the NFL. They are the pre-eminent sports and entertainment brand. Their reach is priceless.”

Waller said the additional promotional power of television networks and other league backers has elevated the campaign each year. During game broadcasts, CBS, NBC, Fox and ESPN share personal stories of how breast cancer has affected their colleagues, friends and families. At other times, they interview people in the NFL who can speak to the disease. Waller cites an on-air interview on the subject with Tanya Snyder, a breast cancer survivor and the wife of Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.

Off the field, Barclays created a campaign to donate up to $100,000 based on customer spending with the NFL Extra Points card during October. Gatorade parent PepsiCo and Kroger worked together on Crucial Catch G Series Thirst Quencher sold only at Kroger stores. Ticketmaster aligned with former NFL quarterback and current Fox Sports analyst Troy Aikman to promote donations of 10 cents from every NFL ticket sold during the month of October. And, yes, the tickets were pink.

Don’t expect this to be a short-lived phenomenon. The NFL has made Breast Cancer Awareness one of its three major causes, along with the Play 60 physical fitness campaign and the military-themed Salute to Service.

“We’ve driven significant awareness for the initiative, for our relationship to the initiative,” Waller said. “And now as we go into sort of the latter years of it, we focus more and more on driving the specific message around, ‘Go get screened.’ You’ve seen our messaging evolve to A Crucial Catch and go get screened. That’s what you need to do, a call to action.”

Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.

Creating awareness and taking action come up again and again when the topic is philanthropy. Two NBA campaigns — one dedicated to battling diabetes, the other to children’s health — demonstrate different approaches to meeting those goals.

Start with stopping diabetes. The NBA began working with the American Diabetes Association in 2011 on a partnership it calls Dribble to Stop Diabetes. The relationship grew from a previous collaboration to encourage vaccinations for teens with the U.S. division of research and pharmaceutical company Sanofi.

Todd Jacobson, NBA senior vice president of social responsibility, said Sanofi, a league sponsor, is a key partner in the diabetes initiative. Like other league sponsors, Sanofi pays a marketing fee. The American Diabetes Association, a nonprofit based in Alexandria, Va., doesn’t pay anything to be part of the campaign. Instead, the nonprofit contributes expertise and credibility as well as an online risk test used to encourage prevention and treatment. Sanofi and the association can use the Dribble to Stop Diabetes logo on related marketing materials.

Through the first two years, in-arena public service announcements and campaigns, mentions during game broadcasts

The American Diabetes Association works with the league to encourage prevention and treatment of diabetes.
Photo by:
NBAE / Getty Images
and a microsite ( created 125 million media impressions, Jacobson said. The goal: 200 million impressions through the first three years.

So far, 27,000 basketball fans have taken risk tests online or from paper versions distributed at NBA, WNBA and Development League games, according to the NBA.

“We don’t have the resources a for-profit might have so we have to be more creative,” said Steve Wosahla, managing director for corporate alliances and cause-related marketing at the American Diabetes Association. “By working with groups like the NBA and the WNBA, we have a good chance to amplify the message.”

Clinics and activities at the WNBA Finals, NBA All-Star Weekend and during the 2013 NBA Nation presented by Sprint further the message. Current and former players work as ambassadors for diabetes prevention, too.

This season, the diabetes campaign ambassadors were Tamika Catchings of the WNBA and NBA players Andre Iguodala and Danny Granger. In most cases, the players involved have direct knowledge of diabetes. For example, Granger’s father and uncle have type 2 diabetes and his grandfather has type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes affects African-Americans and Hispanics at higher rates than the general population, making the NBA a good match to reach those audiences, Wosahla and Jacobson said. Though the campaign to promote healthy children is separate from the diabetes effort, they share a push to limit and reduce obesity. Darell Hammond, the founder and CEO of Washington nonprofit KaBoom!, cites the statistic that 1 in 3 American children is obese as one of several reasons he started the playground-building group.

Brandon Knight of the Detroit Pistons helps build a playground in Houston in conjunction with KaBoom!
Photo by: NBAE / Getty Images
Since 2007, the NBA has contributed $1.5 million in cash and, just as importantly, made its players, employees and league executives available to help build 14 playgrounds across the country. Another six have been built thanks to donations from individual players such as Antawn Jamison, who led the way on playgrounds in Louisiana, North Carolina and Washington.

“They’re deliberately using those builds as marketing platforms as a call to action,” Hammond said of the NBA, which has made playground construction part of its high-profile All-Star weekend and other events. “It’s, ‘We did this today, come continue this [tomorrow].’”

KaBoom! is allowed to use the marks of NBA Cares, the league’s community outreach initiative. Hammond said KaBoom! has since started working with the NFL, MLB and NHL.

One of the key aspects, he said, is the playgrounds aren’t basketball courts or baseball fields connected with the leagues. Instead, they are traditional playgrounds aimed at giving children the chance to wonder and play and spur both mental and physical health. The main goal is getting kids to spend more time outside, in a safe place where they can have fun.

Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.

As bowl season began last December, USA Today reported the average pay of bowl game executives had doubled over the past decade to more than $400,000 per year.

Not so for the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Formed from the remains of the Ticket-City Bowl, the game takes its name from a local charity created to stage events to raise money for various causes, which means the staff is made up entirely of volunteers.

“I really want a royal blue sport coat one day,” said Kern Egan, principal at Dallas marketing firm Haymaker and a volunteer for the bowl game’s sponsor sales. “But we’re a charity.”

Last summer, Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany created the Heart of Dallas Bowl in a matter of several months.

On Jan. 1, the bowl came to life, featuring Purdue of the Big Ten against Oklahoma State of the Big 12 playing at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas. ESPNU televised the game, 48,000 fans attended, and the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance received a $100,000 donation from the proceeds.

In 2014, the matchup will pit a Big Ten school against a member of Banowsky’s Conference USA. Beyond the bowl

Organizers and sponsors of the inaugural bowl used the event to highlight homelessness.
Photo by: Getty Image
game, the Heart of Dallas nonprofit organization has added a regular-season game, dubbed the Heart of Dallas Classic. Louisiana Tech will face Army on Sept. 28, again at the Cotton Bowl, as part of the Texas State Fair. All of the money raised beyond expenses will go to military veterans.

At the bowl game and for the upcoming Army-Louisiana Tech matchup, sponsors are encouraged to buy blocks of tickets and distribute them to veterans and their families, policemen, firemen and other city workers, among others. T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire Texas oilman and a major donor to Oklahoma State, donated $25,000 to buy tickets for Dallas city workers.

Dr Pepper, PlainsCapital Bank and Bud Light all signed on as sponsors. Egan said the game would consider selling title rights if a sizable offer came along, but said the Heart of Dallas name gives sponsors incentive because the game is identified with charity rather than a company. And the purpose is to be broad in philanthropy, giving corporate partners a chance to align preferred causes with the game, too. All the sponsors the first year kept the focus on homelessness.

“Our lead goal is philanthropic,” said Taylor Smiley, head of cause marketing at The Richards Group, which owns Haymaker. Smiley also volunteers for the bowl game. “Are we delivering on our mission of fueling bold social change in Dallas? Our corporate partners are thrilled because the game delivers marketing benefits and it drives social change where they do business.”

The $100,000 donation from the first Heart of Dallas Bowl will move 225 homeless people into permanent housing.
Ronnie Berg, president of PlainsCapital’s Turtle Creek branch in Dallas, said the all-volunteer bowl game staff and the drive of Banowsky led the bank to become a sponsor.

“This is a different bowl, a different mindset,” Berg said. And, he added, doing right and doing well ultimately go together. “Nobody’s going to get rich off this deal. … Down the road, people will say, ‘I’d like to do business with you, I like what you do in the community.’”

Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has long said baseball is a social institution. Five years ago, a then-fledgling nonprofit called Stand Up To Cancer asked Selig to back that sentiment with money and support.

Selig, a melanoma survivor, has delivered, said Sue Schwartz, a partner in a branding agency and part of a group of powerful businesswomen who co-founded the charity.

Others who helped launch Stand Up To Cancer include talk show host and journalist Katie Couric, former Paramount Pictures chairwoman Sherry Lansing, and Entertainment Industry Foundation President and CEO Lisa Paulsen.

Stand Up To Cancer was formed to foster partnerships among science researchers to discover more effective treatments. It now has 11 “dream teams” of scientists, 26 research grant recipients and two international research teams. Five hundred scientists are funded, representing 101 labs and research centers.

MLB became a founding partner with Stand Up To Cancer with a commitment to contribute $10 million in cash. During the past five years, MLB has contributed $35 million and promised to surpass $40 million by the end of 2014. Those figures don’t include advertising time during game broadcasts worth another $5 million to $10 million annually, or spin-offs such as a “Moneyball” movie premiere benefiting the charity hosted by Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff, said Jacqueline Parkes, MLB chief marketing officer.

Stand Up To Cancer has raised $262 million during its short history. Other than an annual telethon, the charity’s top

Detroit Tigers players hold up Stand Up To Cancer placards during the 2012 World Series.
Photo by: Getty Images
fundraising days have been baseball-related partnerships as part of the All-Star Game and World Series, Parkes said.
Players, fans and everyone else in the ballpark hold placards bearing the names of people for whom they are standing up to cancer, creating high-profile, emotional links to the campaign and the impact of cancer on everyone.

Laura Ziskin, another Stand Up co-founder, became one of Hollywood’s top producers during her career, working on the “Spider-Man” movies and the Julia Roberts-Richard Gere blockbuster “Pretty Woman,” among others. In 2009, she convinced MLB sponsor MasterCard to allow the cancer organization to use the credit card company’s “Priceless” theme in a World Series commercial connecting the charity with cancer survivors and research advocates.

The ad featured Couric, current ESPN analyst and retired player John Kruk, and actors Terrence Howard and Minka Kelly as part of a live segment that aired at Citizens Bank Ballpark during Game 3 of the Phillies-Yankees World Series. Ziskin died in 2011, seven years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

“The entire community of baseball really embraced it,” Parkes said, noting the role broadcast partner Fox Sports played in making the live ad a reality.

MasterCard has gone on to create programs of its own to benefit Stand Up To Cancer. The best-known initiative is “Dine and Be Generous,” started at the All-Star Game in 2011. Each time a MasterCard customer uses the credit card to pay for a meal costing $10 or more, MasterCard donates to the charity. The dining-out campaign raised $4 million each in 2011 and 2012.

The Stand Up to Cancer initiative can use league marks in related marketing materials. Every year at the owners’ meetings, Stand Up To Cancer representatives provide updates to MLB executives about research gains. Former and current players, coaches, managers and other baseball employees have all contributed to the campaign. During the most recent winter meetings in Nashville, public relations staffers organized an auction on as a tribute to several baseball PR people suffering from cancer. The auction raised $150,000.

Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.

CharityBuzz earned headlines in mid-May when it auctioned off a one-hour lunch with Apple CEO Tim Cook for $610,000, with proceeds benefiting the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. The stories, however, focused primarily on the enormous selling price and not the auction website’s innovative business model.

Started in 2005 by Coppy Holzman, a veteran of charities and e-commerce, CharityBuzz has become the proverbial eBay for the online community of socially engaged philanthropists.

Once-in-a-lifetime experiences are up for bid on CharityBuzz.
Celebrities from politics, entertainment and sports provide meet-and-greets, memorabilia and other behind-the scenes offerings to be auctioned for specific charities. CharityBuzz promotes the opportunities to its network of 80,000 buyers through regular emails and social media updates. The website gets approximately half a million unique visitors a month, Holzman said. It then oversees the auctions and the transactions, and takes a 20 percent fee for each sale.

“We have the largest community of philanthropists anywhere on the planet, period,” Holzman said. “Nobody else has tens of thousands of people who will pay top dollar for these opportunities because they know the money is going to charity.”

According to James Robinson of Alliance Marketing Partners, the marketing agency for CharityBuzz, the website has generated approximately $80 million in total fundraising.

Sports plays an important role for the business. Holzman’s first auction was for a golf outing with former President Bill Clinton and actor Chevy Chase. The second auction was a tennis lesson from John McEnroe. Today, a quarter of CharityBuzz’s total fundraising comes from sports auctions, such as pitching lessons from CC Sabathia or even a speaking role in the upcoming film about boxer Roberto Duran. Sports memorabilia and premium tickets are also popular auction items.

A quick perusal of the website shows jerseys and baseball bats used by the 1990 World Series champion Cincinnati Reds, dugout box seats for an Arizona Diamondbacks game, and a signed Tony Hawk skateboard.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has donated a pregame opportunity to meet the coach on the field prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 22. The winning bidder will then watch the game from a suite at Gillette Stadium. The New York Yankees had offered the opportunity to watch the July 8 game against the Kansas City Royals from the Legends Suite.

Sports sponsors play a big role as well, sometimes offering up inventory or access from their partnerships to raise money for charity. For example, McDonald’s donated a meet and greet with Kentucky coach John Calipari and a courtside seat, with the money raised going to Ronald McDonald House. Cadillac auctioned off some of its Super Bowl packages to benefit the Detroit public schools.

The current push by CharityBuzz is to sign partnerships for regular charity offerings in the sports industry. It has already signed deals with Madison Square Garden, the Tiger Woods Foundation, tennis stars McEnroe and Chris Evert, the NFL’s Justin Tuck and retired Yankees catcher Jorge Posada.

The star power of the athletes, Holzman said, drives new bidders into CharityBuzz’s website, and the bidders are then enlisted into the company’s email chain and social media network. According to Holzman, the model has helped the company increase revenue 40 percent year over year.

CharityBuzz started in 2007 out of Holzman’s spare bedroom. Today, he has 40 employees and offices in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Said Holzman, “We want to disrupt how charity works.”

Fred Dreier is a writer in Colorado.