Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Community Sponsorships: Look for the Added Value

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Community Sponsorships: Look for the Added Value

Article excerpt

* Keywords: Community Investment, Special Olympics, Long-term Benefits

Executive Summary

This article explores the way in which companies are increasingly looking for some form of return on their community investment programmes, and how charities and those responsible for community initiatives are responding. Many companies have embraced the opportunity to enhance their reputations and even add value to their marketing programmes through carefully selected community sponsorships. However, there are still a large number of companies that maintain a more traditional programme of corporate "giving". In many cases, their approach has not changed because there is no mechanism for them to analyse the return or potential return on their community "investment".

In a sense it depends on where the initiative for a community link comes from. The marketing department will usually come up with cause-related ideas which benefit the bottom line, while the corporate affairs department will take responsibility for what have traditionally been viewed as largely-philanthropic donations. However, there are many benefits which can be derived from a well-managed programme of community investment. Consequently, with some companies we now see a convergence in which corporate affairs, marketing and operational managers all seek to achieve communications and other objectives through a community or charity sponsorship project. The steps that firms need to take to realise such goals are the focus of this paper. Specifically, four companies which have each enjoyed long-term benefits from their relationship with the Special Olympics charity are examined.

Community Sponsorships: Look for the Added Value

Corporate support for charities and community projects is polarised, at one end, by philanthropic donations which modestly merit a line in the Annual Report and, at the other, by increasingly-popular cause-related marketing promotions. Between these two extremes exists a diverse range of community investment programmes that provides a variety of branding and promotional opportunities.

Most large companies have a policy towards corporate giving which operates on two levels: head office contributions to a small number of causes; and local community support from regional offices, factories or stores. This fulfils two objectives: the company acts responsibly as a corporate citizen; and the subsidiary offices or factories contribute towards the communities in which they work.

Increasingly, companies are moving on from this traditional approach by questioning whether they are getting the right level of recognition from the overall contribution they are making to the community. They are also asking themselves whether there is any way in which they can measure the value of the contribution they make in terms of internal or external recognition.

To help answer such questions it is important for companies to think through the objectives that they want to achieve. How can and should any contribution that is made to the community add to the reputation of the company? Also, how would employees like the firm to act, and in what way might they be able to contribute?

If a further question about the value of linking some aspect of the sales process or distribution network to raising money for charity is also considered, then the firm is heading down a path towards cause-related marketing. This line of thinking can then lead to the question: can we add to our bottom line, benefit a charity and enhance our reputation all in one go through some form of external promotion? This shifts the issue away from corporate affairs and into the territory of the marketing department.

A highly-successful example of this in the UK is the Tesco supermarket promotion in which parents collected "points" to help pay for school computers. However, getting involved in a cause-related marketing exercise should be an adjunct to rather than a replacement for the normal programme of community activity. …

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