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Cause marketing – much more than a sponsorship opportunity

You’ve seen the pink ribbon, the Coca-Cola polar bears, and the Project Red Starbucks cards. You might have even worn the infamous yellow Livestrong bracelet at one point. Cause marketing is more prevalent than ever before, as more for-profit businesses see the benefits of partnering with non-profit organizations for mutual benefit, and consumers seek brands that do good, in addition to doing well. Cause marketing has become much more than a sponsorship opportunity, as it once was. Today, cause marketing is based on long-term relationships and alignment with core business values. Contributions in financial form are just the tip of the iceberg; businesses are organizing events and getting the entire staff involved. As a result, employees act as ambassadors to the cause, and are encouraged to embrace the cause inside and outside of the workplace.

First, let’s look at the benefits of cause marketing for for-profit firms:

  • Increases profits — Cause marketing results in greater brand exposure and brand loyalty. This of course is dependant on the relevancy of the cause to the product/service being sold. If the cause doesn’t align with your consumer base, the campaign might flop.
  • Improves public perception — An effective cause marketing campaign improves public perception of a for-profit brand, showing your target consumers that your business supports causes for the greater social good.
  • Increases employee morale — A great cause marketing effort will encourage employees to buy-in to the cause and increase employee engagement.

The benefits of cause marketing for non-profit firms are similar:

  • Encourages differentiation — With so many causes (1.5 million in the US at last count from the National Centre for Charitable Statistics), it’s critical that non-profits stand out from the crowd. An effective cause marketing campaign can pull non-profits away from the masses and put them front and centre for consumers.
  • Increases resources — There is usually a minimum financial contribution to a non-profit, whether it be a lump sum or unit contribution, but either way, these financial contributions add a little more muscle to a non-profit’s marketing efforts.
  • Builds a brand — Gone are the days in which non-profits simply raised funds through a list of donors. Cause marketing helps to diversify funding efforts and integrate with retail markets to build a brand and community around the cause.

While these benefits are all well and good, it’s the employee engagement that seems to really strike a chord with organizations. The impact that employees can have on the effectiveness of a cause marketing campaign is truly unparalleled in terms of marketing tactics. Employee engagement can be defined as “the degree to which an employee is willing to do more than their job minimally requires to help their employer succeed” (

According to a Cone Communications Cause Evolution study in 2007:

  • 93 percent of employees say it is important for their companies to provide them with opportunities to become involved in social issues
  • Companies with high engagement have 3.9 times higher the earnings per share growth rate compared with competitors in the same industry
  • Mean engagement increases as the number of categories of corporate citizenship increases
  • Engagement is increased with employee giving, employee volunteering and personal sustainability

The statistics speak for themselves, and there is no doubt the the success of a cause marketing campaign is hugely dependant on the alignment of the cause with the for-profit’s core goals.

Here’s how to get everyone involved:

  1. Determine which causes align with corporate goals and objectives. Reach out to these cause organizations.
  2. Create opportunities for employees to share their own experiences, and project the objectives of the brand through their own personal goals. Determine who the champions of the campaign will be, give them the necessary tools to lead the way and reward them for their efforts.
  3. Be transparent with employees and measure the success of the campaign constantly. Don’t be afraid to always question what you’re getting out of the campaign; it will re-energize efforts and help to stay on track.
  4. Look for leadership from top-level management. If they’re not involved, it will be difficult to engage employees in social efforts. It has to be company-wide to be successful. On the flip side, ask bosses for resources and opportunities to further efforts to a cause, it will show motivation and commitment.
  5. Consider the cause marketing campaign a partnership, and continue to build upon the success of the partnership from the ground up. Recognize that employees can make real, positive difference in the world, starting with the company.

If done effectively, cause-related marketing can add incredible value to a brand, building brand equity and consumer involvement. Considering internal stakeholders is crucial, and recognizing that their support is vital to the success of the campaign is the first step in building that campaign.

About the author

Meghan Tooley is a commerce student and active online blogger from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She often offers her views on human resource development, as it relates to nonprofits. She writes on behalf of Metric Marketing, a Winnipeg SEO firm, that works closely with The Winnipeg Humane Society, a non-profit animal shelter.

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In addition to our regular guest bloggers, Inside Internal Controls blog published by First Reference, provides occasional guest post opportunities from various subject matter experts on the topics of risk management and best practices in finance and accounting, information technology, environmental issues, corporate governance, sales/marketing and operations, not-for-profits and business related issues in Canada. If you are a subject matter expert and would like to become an occasional blogger, please contact Yosie Saint-Cyr at If you liked this post and would like to subscribe to Inside Internal Controls blog click here.

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