Cause Marketing Sampler: July 2008


Mobile Giving.  With seven Red Sox players dominating the American League line-up at tonight's All-Star Game, I thought I'd give you another reason to tune-in if for some strange reason you're not a Sox fan. Two nonprofit organizations, Stand up to Cancer and Make a Wish Foundation, will benefit through mobile donations.  To donate to Make a Wish Foundation, attendees and viewers will be prompted to text 'WISH' to 90999. For Stand up to Cancer donations, text 'STAND' to 40202.  The details are still being worked out, but we should see in-stadium and on-air calls to action for both charities.

Mobile giving is a fast growing area for fundraisers.  Just yesterday, the Washington Nationals and MLB launched a mobile donation program benefiting the creation of a Diabetes Care Complex for Children's National Medical Center.  During the game against the Houston Astros, fans were invited to text the word "NATS" to 90999 to give $5 to support the work of Children's National Medical Center to fight pediatric diabetes.

Do these programs raise money?  Keep a Child Alive has raised over $40,000 through mobile donations during Alicia Keys 'As I Am' tour.  During her concerts, Alicia Keys dims the house lights, plays a clip from her 'Alicia in Africa' film, and asks concertgoers to pull out their cell phones and text 'ALIVE' to 90999.  So far, over 8,000 donations have been made.

To learn more about mobile giving, visit  What I like about mobile giving is its potential to be used in numerous settings.  At sports arenas, at the supermarket, in conjunction with a point-of-sale or percentage-of-sale program, at company meetings, etc.  Just think if you could sit in a company auditorium and hear about the work of a bunch of nonprofits and by just using your cell phone choose your charities for payroll deduction.  The possibilities for mobile giving are endless!  And after checking out mGive, I was amazed at how easy and affordable it is to get started.

Viewers Identify with Brands that Support Favorite TV Shows Causes.  This was the conclusion of U.K. research reported on by AdAge that looked at how subtly TV sponsorship works and how different its effects are from traditional spot advertising.  I think the research is applicable to cause marketing in several ways.

  • Like cause marketing, TV sponsorship works "by capitalizing on a viewer's feelings about a program.  The stronger the relationship the viewer has with the program, the more effective the sponsorship will be at driving these emotions toward the brand."  Most cause marketing programs work because consumers have a long, positive and strong relationship with a corporate brand--relationships that are in turn passed along to the cause partner and enhanced to the benefit the corporate brand.  While great cause marketing programs have different appeals and approaches they all share one thing: a strong corporate partner.
  • If a TV sponsorship can have an impact on a fans' favorability toward a brand (the sense of the brand being "for me" can rise as much as 12% and intent to purchase can be up to 9% higher), why are companies so surprised when I tell them that cause marketing can significantly improve their favorability with consumers?  If a Domino's Pizza TV sponsorship of The Simpsons can help sell pizzas, isn't Domino's support for sick kids at St. Jude's a sales driver too?  Domino's obviously gets this, but most companies still do not.
  • Cause marketing partners want what the U.K. study calls "brand rub."  Just as TV fans tend to use the same words to describe programs AND sponsors--"funny," "enjoyable," "friendly"--corporate partners hope to benefit from the "brand rub" of causes and be called "compassionate,"  "responsible" and "giving".
  • Like cause marketing partnerships, the rewards of TV sponsorships come with time.  "Longevity reaps greater rewards with increases in intent to purchases, favorability and fame."  Perhaps most interestingly, "Given time, even brands that are not a natural fit with a show can enter the viewer-program and fame."  This speaks to a point I often make about the synergy between nonprofit and for profit.  Do they always have to be closely linked?  Like the one I saw last month between Vitamin Shoppe and Vitamin Angels--so similar I asked if the latter was separate from VS, which it is.  I've always thought that consumers don't really care what cause companies support.  What they do want from businesses is a sincere commitment to a good cause.  Period.  They may scratch their heads in the beginning, but with time and commitment from the company, customers will stop scratching and start applauding your good deeds, whatever they may be.
  • Not surprisingly, the appeal of TV sponsorships is emotional, not rational.  "Only 10% of respondents believed that sponsorship has informed them about a brand or has been thought provoking."  The same is true of cause marketing, which at its most basic level is transactional.  "Do you want to donate a dollar to help a sick child?"  It's not meant to educate, inform or change the way you think about a company.  It's meant to make you feel.  If you want thought provoking watch PBS.  Appeals to the head should never be mistaken for matters of the heart.