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Why Doesn't Your Cause Marketing Generate as Much Money as the Super Bowl?

An open letter to my friends in the nonprofit world.


Dear Nonprofit Marketer:

The Super Bowl was yesterday. It attracted the largest TV audience for any TV show ever in the United States with 106.5 million viewers. The Winter Olympics are a few days away. The World Cup is about 4 months from now. So I'm opening up Peabody's Way Back Machine to a post I wrote in 2007 that asks, 'why doesn't your cause generate as much money as any of those sports properties?'

Short answer; it's a failure of imagination.

The September 27, 2007 Forbes listed the value of the world’s top sponsored sports events, by the amount of money they generate per day. They are:

1. Super Bowl… $336 million
2. Summer Olympics…$176 million
3. Fifa World Cup…$103 million
4. NCAA Men’s Final Four…$90 million
5. Winter Olympics…$82 million
6. Rose Bowl…$72 million
7. MLB World Series…$61 million
8. Kentucky Derby…$59 million
9. NBA Finals…$58 million

I notice that your nonprofit isn’t on the list. Indeed, no nonprofit is. There’s two reasons for that. Forbes compiled a list of the top sports event sponsorships. I’ll get to the second reason in a second.

But cause-related marketing is… in the main… just a form of sponsorship. Why isn’t your cause making a $103 million per day like the World Cup?

Think of all the advantages you enjoy.
  • You have tremendous heart.
  • You have a list of supporters who literally open their wallets for you several times a year.
  • Some are as passionate about your cause as any face-painting fan of the World Cup or the Olympics.
  • You powerfully impact the lives of millions (or thousands) every year.
  • Your name recognition in your market segment is very high.
  • You get plenty of (mainly) positive publicity.
Look at the list of sponsorships again. What’s the second reason why you don’t generate even $58 million per day in sponsorship money?

In a word, it’s a TV contract. Or, rather, TV contracts.

While you’re busy pitching story ideas to get free publicity for your cause campaign, all those people on the top 10 list are signing rich contracts for TV coverage of their event.

The result is your sports marketing peers measure their sponsorship results in millions per day and you measure it in thousands per year.

It’s like they’re baking up hundreds of items at once a big industrial range while you’re baking up cute little individual tablespoon-sized cupcakes in an Easy Bake oven. They’re cooking with thousands of BTUs and you’re cooking with the watts thrown off by a tiny light bulb.

But wait, you say, that’s not fair. The Super Bowl has something to show. It’s visually perfect for television.

But no one thought so at first.

According to Forbes:
“The first Super Bowl was played in 1967 in the Los Angeles Coliseum, and there were so many empty seats you could have bought a ticket right before kickoff for next to nothing. Television viewership was not much better. Super Bowl Sunday is now a quasi-national holiday and tickets are next to impossible to get (less than 1% of the game's tickets are available to the general public through a random drawing) and very expensive (the average price for a ticket during the 2007 Super Bowl was $614), and ratings are through the roof (three of the four most-watched television programs in the U.S. have been Super Bowls).”
I’ll bet the story’s not so different for the first televised World Cup, either.

To be sure, you can get your cause on TV right now. Contact my friends at the Starfish Television Network and they’ll almost certainly be able to carry your existing programming for free.

The TV contract however is a taller order. You’re going to have to come up with a pretty good concept and you’ll have to sell it like crazy.

But take a lesson from the Super Bowl. It took the NFL 40 years to grow the popularity of Super Bowl to the point where the average Joe or Jane can’t really even buy tickets to the game. When the NFL started they didn't know that the Super Bowl was going to be The Super Bowl. You have the advantage of a path that has been trod by many others, even if none of them were nonprofits.

Don't get discouraged. Remember the journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step.

Warm regards,

Paul Jones
President
Alden Keene and Associates

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