Cause Marketing the Marathon

Patriot's Day here in Boston was cold, wet and windy.  Not the best conditions for running a marathon.  But that didn't stop the 20,000 runners that toed the starting line for the 2007 Boston Marathon. Among those brave runners were sixty that had each raised a minimum of $3,000 for my organization.  To date the team has raised over $210,000, and the money is still coming in.

The Boston Marathon Charity Program, which supplies the waivers nonprofits use for fundraising (Since Boston is open only to qualified [serious] runners, a charity waiver is the only way most ordinary runners can officially participate), has been quite a boon for charities here in Massachusetts.  Getting a waiver is like getting a golden ticket from Willy Wonka.  Last year, the program allowed 18 charities to raise $7.5 million.  Each waiver is worth at least $3,000, but it can be worth a lot more.  One of our runners raised $35,000.

But like anything good, you don't get all you want.  Non-permanent charities like mine that rotate out of the charity program after three years receive up to 15 waivers each year.  Permanent charities get a lot more.  Fortunately, we were able to scrounge-up another 45 waivers.  How did we do this?

Your cousin knows the marketing guy for a company that sponsors the marathon?  Drop a dime.  Your aunt is the mayor of a town along the Boston Marathon route?  Go see her.  The firefighter that put out the fire in your house mentioned that his station volunteers at the Marathon?  Track him down.  That's how we found 45 additional waivers!

To augment the money we raise from waivers, we've tried for two years to recruit a corporate sponsor for the team.  Between our runners and cheering stations I knew we had a marketing opportunity that would appeal to the right company.  Finally, this year we recruited two corporate partners.

Together, New Seabury and HealthBridge Management contributed $30,000 to our marathon program.  In exchange:

  • We promoted their involvement to all our employees, donors and runners (about 15,000 total).
  • Their logos appeared on all team apparel.
  • Their logos were on the "bam-bams" (red noise makers in the picture) we used to cheer on runners.  We also became our sponsors' street team and handed out hundreds of bam-bams to spectators along the course.
  • We set up two tents along the course from which our sponsors could hang banners, entertain clients and employees and distribute free items.

Remember that none of these things could have legally happened on the Boston Marathon course without a nonprofit partnership.  My organization was a pass-through for the companies that legitimized their presence on the course.  Sponsoring the Boston Marathon isn't cheap (nor is it overpriced: Marathon media coverage is surpassed only by the Super Bowl).  These two companies got some great visibility for a modest investment.  We raised some good money.

The answer to your question is yes.  That's how cause marketing is suppose to work.