The Cadillac of Cause Marketing Promotions

Car sales in September 2010 were up 18 percent over September 2009, a hopeful sign for the economy. But among the various segments, luxury cars sales were up only 10.2 percent for the corresponding period.

So what do you do if you sell Cadillacs?

Brotherton Cadillac
in Metro Seattle has launched a low cost, high-gloss promotion that makes terrific use of Twitter, generates donations for five charities in Seattle and offers you and I a chance to win a new 2010 Cadillac CTS like the one at left.

Here’s how it works: Brotherton invites you to donate to five well-regarded charities in the Seattle area: the Arthritis Foundation chapter, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, The Moyer Foundation, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and Special Olympics Washington. The Moyer Foundation raises money for a local ‘bereavement camp’ for children ages 6-17. The suggested donation is $25.

The moment one of the charities reach $140,000 in donations, the promotion ends and the sweepstakes portion of the promotion kicks in. The promotion started October 12, 2010 and ends January 1, 2011.

To enter the sweepstakes, Brotherton asks you to voice your support for one or more of the charities on Twitter. Your Tweet then becomes an official entry for the Cadillac CTS sweepstakes. Multiple entries are possible and encouraged.

I choose Seattle Children’s Hospital because I have friends who have worked for that fine facility.

Here’s how the auto-generated Tweet went out from my account:
"I support @SeattleChildren in @BroCadillac's #RaceForARide"
The website for the promotion, allows both the donations and the direct posting to your Twitter account.

I just have a few questions and the first is the biggest. Can this promotion really pay off for a local Cadillac dealer in Renton, Washington? The CTS sweepstakes is open to legal U.S. residents everywhere except New York and Florida, meaning Brotherton sees the entire population as its likely target. And I have no doubt that Brotherton has sold Cadillacs via the Internet to people far from Seattle.

But while Seattle Children’s and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research both have footprints that extend across the Pacific Northwest, the appeal of the other participating charities strike me as being more local. If I’m in Illinois do I care enough about these local charities to make a donation? Or do I participate only in the Twitter element to get a shot at the car?

My other question is more ticklish because I’m greatly impressed with this promotion and not anxious to ‘out it’ to regulators.

In about 40 states or municipalities in the United States you have to register with state or local authorities in order to solicit for donations there. Doing so is a real pain in the patootie because the requirements for registration vary widely. And for most of the local authorities the rule is that if you use the Internet to solicit, you're soliciting in their jurisdiction.

Many of these local authorities also extract a filing fee. There are a handful of law firms in the country that will handle all that filing for you for about $10,000.

It could be that Brotherton’s point of view is that the five charities have all the necessary registration requirements covered. I’m not a lawyer (and I’ve never played one on TV!) but if that's their opinion I doubt it would pass muster.

That said, I dig the elements of this promotion. It’s original, low-risk, and otherwise well thought-out.

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