By Mathilde Coutu
Linking companies with causes for promotional and publicity objectives is gaining a lot of momentum. On one hand, consumers today have higher expectations, creating a need for minimal social involvement. On the other, cause sponsorship is a powerful tool that allows companies to stand out from the competition because they can establish a unique image for themselves: partnerships cannot be exactly replicated.
Here are some tips on how to successfully integrate a cause into your business model:
For cause sponsorship to benefit a company while also being socially acceptable, it’s important to choose an organization or cause based on the interests of the cause’s target consumers. The partnership must be perceived as a long-term undertaking, or the company will be seen as opportunistic and out of touch. It’s a good idea to assess the fit between the company and the cause before entering into a partnership, either by surveying the target audience or by doing a comparative analysis using past research.
A win-win environment
A winning partnership between a charitable cause and a company must be mutually beneficial. It should result in financial support and public awareness for the cause while also enhancing the company's image, reputation, social acceptability and consumer loyalty. When identifying potential organizations during a market audit, it is recommended to use an assessment tool to compare the various criteria, such as reach, brand image or awareness, that differentiate each organization.
In addition to revitalizing a company's image, cause sponsorship becomes a differentiating factor for properties, and this can translate into a distinct competitive advantage.
But it's not enough to simply partner with a cause; it's important to not only communicate that association to the market while ensuring the impact of the charities you partner with but also create a strong integration with the cause or non-profit that transcends a traditional communications campaign.
Here are three examples of cause partnerships.
BAND-AID x BLM
In 2020, the brand rolled out a new range of adhesive bandages, expanding the shades it offered in an effort to make its products more racially inclusive. Band-Aid created the bandages in support of the protests against racism, violence and injustice less than a month after the death of George Floyd. To accompany the launch of the new product line, the brand also announced several concrete actions, including a $100,000 donation to the Black Lives Matter foundation.
Bud Light x Pride
In 2019, the popular Bud Light alcoholic beverage brand teamed up with Rainbow Railroad to help LGBTQ+ people around the world escape persecution and find a path to safety. In addition to committing $100,000 to the charitable organization, Bud Light devoted a page of its website to raising awareness of the cause, sold its famous beer in rainbow-coloured cans and bottles and signed on as an official partner of Pride Toronto. Several alcohol brands, including Absolut Canada, Crystal Head and Vizzy, have joined the movement to celebrate Pride Month and are taking concrete actions throughout the year.
Tangerine X WNBA
In May 2021, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) announced that Tangerine Bank would become the league’s first Foundational Partner in Canada. The multiyear partnership represented a significant commitment for the bank: support for local communities through community gyms; support for the mental wellbeing of young basketball players on the court and in the community; a fundraising campaign for the Kids Help Phone; and the implementation of programs and initiatives to inspire self-confidence, leadership, and acceptance in Canadian youth. At the end of the WNBA season, Tangerine will launch a campaign to celebrate 25 years of women's empowerment and advancement in sports.
Once a partnership is launched, it’s important to annually reassess the impact of that partnership and its relevance over time. As your company evolves, so should your involvement in cause sponsorship.