CauseTalk Radio Ep98: New Balance Gets Kids Moving with SparkStart

Today on CauseTalk Radio, Megan and I talk to Amy Shapiro, Manager of Cause Marketing at New Balance about SparkStart, a new global initiative that's focused on encouraging physical activity in children.

It's much needed as one of every ten school-aged child on the planet is overweight.

To launch SparkStart here in the states, New Balance has partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Through August 31st, when you buy New Balance shoes they will donate 30 percent of the sale price back to BGCA in the form of new shoes.

For the end of September, New Balance is planning a global volunteer week for employees. Employees worldwide will have the opportunity to work with activity-focused nonprofits in their local communities.

Finally, Amy discusses the challenge of picking the right cause and activities right to create impact.

Tune in now to learn more about an ambitious, global initiative that's just getting started. 

Ambush Marketing: Tips & Tactics for Nonprofits

Today on Razoo.com I wrote a post on 5 Ways to Ambush Your Competition and Steal the Gold. To give another example of ambush marketing I'm reprinting this post from 2010. Read and learn!

I love how Boston-based New Balance is attacking the Boston Marathon like I wish I had attacked Heartbreak Hill when I ran the great race in 2005.

They've outpaced the official shoe sponsor of the marathon, Adidas, and come up with a strategy to leave their mark on the hometown run.

They're doing everything that will connect their brand with the world's greatest race--except pay the sponsorship fee.

Little guys--both non- and for-profit--take note: pushing the envelope may earn you dirty looks from fat cat sponsors and event organizers. But nothing is gained in this world without risk and toeing the line between following the rules and breaking them.

And New Balance didn't break any rules. Even Boston Athletic Association chief Guy Morse concedes: “That’s on the fine line. It is still a free country at some level. It is taking advantage of an event they’re not associated with,’’ Morse said. “I’m not happy about it. But that’s the way it is.’’

You can read about New Balance's ambush of the marathon in the Boston Globe. But as much as I admired New Balance's campaign, I can't understand why they don't have a cause component. During the years my nonprofit had large teams in the Boston Marathon we recruited sponsors for marathon cheering sections based on our access to the course and the halo we enjoyed as a charity.

Check out these two posts I wrote in 2007 and 2008.

Even though we were successful at getting many corporate sponsors, including big brands like Toyota of New England, on the race course, the BAA would never had let New Balance on the course. The competition between Adidas and New Balance  is simply too fierce.

But that doesn't mean New Balance couldn't have sponsored a charity team and splashed their logo all over their training and race-day apparel. Just last year I had 60 runners on my marathon team and would have welcomed a sponsorship from New Balance. And I'm sure I'm not the only charity.

Sponsoring a charity team would have put New Balance right in the middle of the race!

Here's an idea that would have made sure that all eyes were on them.

The challenge with sponsoring a charity team is that regardless of how big the team is each runner is goes at their own pace and team is flung from Hopkinton to Boston.  As a sponsor looking to make a splash and a statement you never get to "mass your forces." The devastating volley I would fire would have a team running at the same pace for one cause and one sponsor.

Just picture this: 30, 40, 50 runners from the same charity, in the same apparel running the Boston Marathon course. Who wouldn't ask: "Who are they?" I've mentioned this to people and they've said, "But how you going to find that many people to run together?!"

We can pass health reform but we can't find 30 people to run a marathon together? Please. A determined nonprofit and a sponsor like New Balance could definitely make it happen.

Who would have thought a Boston running shoe company like New Balance would take on Adidas at the most hallowed road race in the world? New Balance should tear a page from another shoe company's game book and just do it.

New Balance's Boston Marathon Ambush Lacks Cause

I love how Boston-based New Balance is attacking the Boston Marathon like I wish I had attacked Heartbreak Hill when I ran the great race in 2005. They've outpaced the official shoe sponsor of the marathon, Adidas, and come up with a strategy to leave their mark on the hometown run.

They're doing everything that will connect their brand with the world's greatest race--except pay the sponsorship fee.

Little guys--both non- and for-profit--take note: pushing the envelope may earn you dirty looks from fat cat sponsors and event organizers. But nothing is gained in this world without risk and toeing the line between following the rules and breaking them.

And New Balance didn't break any rules. Even Boston Athletic Association chief Guy Morse concedes: “That’s on the fine line. It is still a free country at some level. It is taking advantage of an event they’re not associated with,’’ Morse said. “I’m not happy about it. But that’s the way it is.’’

You can read about New Balance's ambush of the marathon in the Boston Globe. But as much as I admired New Balance's campaign, I can't understand why they don't have a cause component. During the years my nonprofit had large teams in the Boston Marathon we recruited sponsors for marathon cheering sections based on our access to the course and the halo we enjoyed as a charity.

Check out these two posts I wrote in 2007 and 2008.

Even though we were successful at getting many corporate sponsors, including big brands like Toyota of New England, on the race course, the BAA would never had let New Balance on the course. The competition between Adidas and New Balance  is simply too fierce.

But that doesn't mean New Balance couldn't have sponsored a charity team and splashed their logo all over their training and race-day apparel. Just last year I had 60 runners on my marathon team and would have welcomed a sponsorship from New Balance. And I'm sure I'm not the only charity.

Sponsoring a charity team would have put New Balance right in the middle of the race!

Here's an idea that would have made sure that all eyes were on them.

The challenge with sponsoring a charity team is that regardless of how big the team is each runner is goes at their own pace and team is flung from Hopkinton to Boston.  As a sponsor looking to make a splash and a statement you never get to "mass your forces." The devastating volley I would fire would have a team running at the same pace for one cause and one sponsor.

Just picture this: 30, 40, 50 runners from the same charity, in the same apparel running the Boston Marathon course. Who wouldn't ask: "Who are they?" I've mentioned this to people and they've said, "But how you going to find that many people to run together?!"

We can pass health reform but we can't find 30 people to run a marathon together? Please. A determined nonprofit and a sponsor like New Balance could definitely make it happen.

Who would have thought a Boston running shoe company like New Balance would take on Adidas at the most hallowed road race in the world? New Balance should tear a page from another shoe company's game book and just do it.

AMA Presentation: Cause Marketing During Challenging Times

Thanks to everyone who came out to the AMA Boston event on Cause Marketing During Challenging Economic Times. It was a great event. As promised, below are links to some of the topics I discussed.

What is cause marketing. One thing that was clear from everyone on the panel is that Bonnie, Erica Vogelei from Cone and I all had a different understanding of what cause marketing is. Here's my perspective. If you're a cause marketing skeptic you may want to check out my post on Defending Cause Marketing. Be sure to read the comments under both posts as they are very helpful.

The Power of Pinups. My cause marketing efforts revolve around two key areas, point-of-sale and percentage-of-sale, especially the former. For a primer on point-of-sale, or pinups as I like to call them, check out this post, which has lots of links. My last pinup program was with Ocean State Job Lots. But I've also posted on other programs by Hannaford Supermarkets and New Balance.

If you're interested in learning more about percentage-of-sale programs, read this post about Starbucks & Product (RED).

Cause marketing and social media. One of my favorite topics. Be sure to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. on the right sidebar! Here's a good sampling of my posts on the subject. Also, check out my post on Foursquare and Harvard and how the latter can school cause marketers on how to raise money with location-based social media.

This presentation didn't have any slides, but if you're a PowerPoint-aholic check out these slides from an event I spoke at just a couple weeks ago.

Three final things.

First, if you have a question, leave a comment and I'll reply to you. I might even write a post on your question! And you can make sure you never miss a post by subscribing to my email newsletter, which goes out twice a month.

Second, I've posted a whole series on Selling Local Sponsorships for Nonprofits that explores the selling process and how to prospect, pitch and close. It's helpful if you work in nonprofit sales.

Finally, speaking of pitching, let me leave you with one. The team at BMC is available for hire.

Thanks again for listening. I hope my accent wasn't too thick (a problem sometimes even for a Boston crowd!).

Check-Out-Line Charity a Perfect Fit for New Balance, Komen

New Balance and Komen already have a great partnership. But Chris Mann (@chrisrmann), Associate Manager, Brand Marketing for New Balance, wanted to make it even better by involving New Balance's 134 stores.

But how? 

That's how our conversation began a year ago when Chris asked my advice on creating a pinup program for New Balance's stores. It was a lot of fun working with Chris, and he knew a lot already thanks to his fundraising work at The Jimmy Fund, his job before New Balance.

Chris obviously wanted to raise more money for Komen. But he also had some other good goals, which he wisely knew could be accomplished through pinups.

To further educate customers about New Balance's support for breast cancer awareness. The pinup was a starting point to talk to customers about New Balance's ongoing support for Komen. If they didn't know about the partnership and Komen's great work already, they would now.

To educate sales associates. Let's face it, sometimes directives from the corporate mothership don't always trickle down to frontline workers. A pinup program was a great way to reinforce New Balance's commitment to Komen on every level, and to get employees talking (and learning) about the partnership.

While New Balance has 134 stores, the foot traffic is modest compared to other types of retailers. It's not like selling pinups at a busy supermarket or restaurant chain.  With a daily average of just 35 transactions, New Balance had to make the most of every single customer.

I told Chris that I faced a similar challenge with Valvoline Instant Oil Change, which averages  50 customers per store each day. In VIOC's case, we sold the pinup for $3 and added coupons to incentivize customers. Chris did just that. He sold the pinup for $5 and offered shoppers $10 off their next purchase.

The October pinup program for Komen raised $29,000.

A few things Chris learned from his program.

The ask is all. If you politely ask shoppers to buy a pinup at the register, not all of them will say yes. But a lot will. But if you don't ask, no one will buy a pinup. Period. It's that simple.

Take a top-down approach. Communicating effectively with store managers is key and will drive the success of the program.

Incentives work. I've had mixed results with incentives, but Chris reminded me of an incentive that always works: recognition. He created a friendly competition among stores with bragging rights in company communications.

Chris plans to repeat the October pinup program for Komen. He also plans to do another pinup program for Girls on the Run in May.

Sick of Pink Complainers

stop_complaining Sent to the Boston Globe this morning.

Dear Editors,

The Sick of Pink article in yesterday's Globe Magazine was unfair to socially responsible companies in general and to New Balance, an outstanding corporate citizen, in particular.

The whole story reminded me of another. A winemaker who despite having some of the best casks of wine in his town would nonetheless sample each one until he found a poor vintage for himself. A friend of the winemaker once asked a servant what his master was doing. "Looking for bad when he is surrounded by good."

That's exactly what critics of New Balance are doing. They've bypassed all the good things New Balance has done (the good work of its foundation, the millions of dollars New Balance has raised for Komen's, the invaluable awareness they've brought to breast cancer, etc.) and chosen instead to focus on the thing that didn't quite taste right.

A couple things to remember.

New Balance is a big company and sells a lot of sneakers. While I'm sure the Lace Up For the Cure line is a winner for both New Balance and Komen, overall it's just one small piece of the sneaker company's success. In short, you can be sure the Lace Up line has been a better performer for Komen than it has been for New Balance.

Another thing to consider is that most people who buy "pink" products aren't just buying them for the ribbon. Besides the die-hard supporter, who would really spends a $100 on a pair of shoes just because it has a pink ribbon on it? Let's not go overboard. The cause connection is just one factor in the consumer's buying decision, especially if we agree with the writer that we are awash in "pink" products to choose from.

Consumers buy New Balance shoes because they are well made, have an excellent reputation, are made for performance and comfort, and, if they buy them locally, perhaps because they are produced by a Boston-based company. The fact that they support Komen is another great reason to buy them. But it's one reason, not the only reason. And I believe Komen gets their fair share of the sneaker price, plus a generous donation from New Balance. How much more should New Balance, or any company, be expected to give?

Companies should obey the law and register with the Attorney General's office. They should also be clear on how much a nonprofit will receive from a cause-related marketing program. But good companies like New Balance that do good deeds for the right reasons shouldn't be second-guessed and chided for what they DON'T do, or be held to unreasonable standards.

The risk is that very soon we'll all be complaining that companies like New Balance don't do anything at all.

Joe Waters