Pragmatic Decisions Winning Out Over Emotions When It Comes to Supporting Causes
There is no shortage of commercials and advertisements showcasing images of starving children, abused animals, polar bears stuck on ice, or any manner of cause with which you’d like to align your organization. After all, as marketing and public relations professionals, it’s our job to either create the brand messages for these causes, or find the one we wish to utilize as part of our corporate initiatives.
But as the competition continues to heat up for finite sponsorship dollars, non profits would be smarter to look to NASCAR than to Jerry Lewis.
As a 20 year veteran of the marketing and PR game, non profits and cause marketing programs have always been part of my daily work – from identifying causes (out of thousands) for clients to support, to leveraging the involvement and getting the most from the program.
Unfortunately, most non profits don’t understand how to speak “brand” or “agency.” When you ask the development director “So, what am I going to get out of this,” the most typical response seems to be “you’ll be helping hundreds of people have running water.” That was not my question. I can support any cause, I want to understand why I should support YOUR cause. It all comes down to D, C, and R and I’m not talking dogs, children or rescues, I’m referral to dollars, cents and return.
You see, the reality of why most organizations get involved in a specific cause is because they most likely have a very personal story or reason behind it – such as Michael J. Fox working with Parkinson’s and Christopher Reeve’s work with stem cell research. The problem is, there are only so many people personally affected that are willing to contribute dollars. Breast cancer has done a wonderful job showcasing the connectivity of everyone to breast cancer and has raised innumerable amounts of money – yet heart disease far and away affects more women – a fact now being touted in most brand communications of the American Heart Association.
The point is, you can only have so many personal affiliations. Some like dogs, some don’t. Some believe in Girl Scouts, others don’t. And religious causes, don’t get me started. So, the smart non profits are starting to look at themselves as a brand. They are learning “brand conversations” and such things like archetype aligning, impressions and ROI – right out of NASCAR – a sport built and maintained almost entirely by sponsorships.
Increasingly less effective is heart string advertising because in reality, it is causing many folks to feel guilty because they know they can’t contribute to every cause. Watch the next time someone walks into a grocery story during the Salvation Army kettle drive. Even if they’ve already given 10 times, the one time they don’t they won’t make eye contact. Americans are tired of feeling like they are not giving enough, when in fact there is no more generous country on the planet. They know they can’t help every cause – my firm for example receives on average two monetary requests from any number of charities each week. And again, when I ask what I’ll receive in return, I get the typical “you’ll be helping to build a stronger community.”
I have a lot of taxes that go into “building a stronger a community.”
And therein lies the second problem. Many businesses, especially small businesses, are bombarded by requests for free work and donations. They are paying a hefty sum in taxes, and margins are getting smaller and smaller – the focus is on running a somewhat profitable business, and saving whales is probably not on today’s to do list. Now, before everyone saving whales gets all excited and says “but it’s really a worthwhile cause!”.
They all are. I’m asking you to change your thinking, and start thinking like your target public. That, my friends is why they call it public relations – you need to “relate” to your “publics” better and get them to do what you want them to do. And nowadays, they need to know that their dollars are going toward more than feeding the hungry, they need to know how many brand conversations they’re going to have as a result of their alignment.
Start with your sponsorships. Each most likely has some set of “things” you offer a sponsor in return for their dollars, such as signage or naming rights and the like. As you put a price tag to said sponsorship, instead start thinking about impressions as if you were “selling” a billboard or a TV spot. How many people are going to see it (that’s called an impression) or how meaningful is the brand conversation that is to be had with the target publics (ie: do they get to be part of a meet and greet, THEIR target public for example). Is your media relations team working to secure publicity, and what would that cost, and so on. Then, as you quantify this, you can begin to speak “brand speak.”
Your brand will receive X impressions for your sponsorship dollars, nearly an 8:1 return, AS WELL AS the goodwill achieved through aligning with our organization. You see, the goodwill is the given, the return and the impressions is your prize inside the cereal box – because most groups don’t speak that language. Then, you work to make certain the beloved sponsor is leveraging those all important dollars. Why? Because you want them back next year, right?
So, you give them a toolkit to leverage the sponsorship. You make yourself available to assist them in promoting their involvement, and in creating shared connections with possible customers and/or clientele. You provide to them a detailed report on what they “earned” through their sponsorship, accompanied by the “tear jerking” letter of someone that the dollars will go to help.
The final piece of the puzzle is understanding brand archetypes when trying to create programs. As a group asking for donations, do you know what your archetype is? Chances are, you don’t – which means you’re working much harder than you have to and not speaking the same language as the potential sponsor. Every “thing” has a brand archetype, typically one of 12, similar to the “zodiac” in that each has traits and a personality. To demonstrate, think of Star Wars. You have Han Solo (the outlaw), Yoda (the sage), Luke Skywalker (the innocent) and Darth Vader (the ruler). Most movies use these types of themes when they create characters.
And character matters. The closer you are aligned to the character of your sponsor, the more both entities are strengthening and enhancing their brand. To illustrate, you can see Disney supporting the Make a Wish Foundation, can’t you? Perfectly logical, right? But, can you image Chevy Trucks sponsoring the U.S. Open? Of course not. Not only do the demographics not match, the archetypes don’t align (the everyman and the lover). Occasionally, purposeful misalignment of archetypes can work to your favor, such as Harley Davidson sponsoring the ballet, but more for novelty and press rather than strengthening the brand.
So, if you take into account the most likely sponsors that align from an archetypical fashion, it can narrow the focus in discussing the right demographics with the right brand conversation and message. Then, you discuss numbers and impressions, all wrapped in nice bow that helps them leverage the program. And, if you’re afraid to try it on your own, I know a fantastic agency in Cincinnati that can help.
Start thinking like NASCAR and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can get to the “sponsorship” checkered flag.
Tags: Public Relations , Marketing , Branding , Public Relations Practiti
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