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Asymmetric Sponsorship in Cause Marketing

Donate a gently-worn coat at a drop-off box at one of more than 450 Burlington Coat Factory stores in 45 states and Puerto Rico and you’ll get a coupon for 10 percent off your total purchase at the store. The charity partner is One Warm Coat.

The campaign began October 29, 2010 and runs through January 17, 2011. This is the campaign’s fourth year with Burlington and the media sponsor ABC’s morning show Good Morning America. In 2009-2010 the drive generated 220,000 coats, an average of almost 500 per store and 24 percent more than the year before.

Judging from the coverage Good Morning America lavishes on this promotion it’s plain that ABC loves this promotion. In fact, if you’ve donated or received a donated coat, Good Morning America’s producers want to hear from you.

Maybe you saw Heisman Winner Cam Newton donating a coat on a recent Good Morning America or the stars of “Wicked” or the stars of “Billy Elliott,”or the cast of “Next to Normal,” or the X-Games Champions Sarah Burke and Simon Dumont. I could go on.

But does Burlington love this campaign?

Oh, Burlington’s website features the coat drive very prominently. However, this Burlington Coat Factory circular at the left from November 25, 2010 tells a different story. The full page is 11.5” wide and nearly 22” tall. But the little snipe at the top describing the promotion is just 6.5” wide times 1.1” tall. The logo for the campaign is all of six-tenths of an inch square.

Now to be fair this circular might have dropped in 400 newspapers on November 25. It could be that this snipe or one like it has run in 400 newspapers every Sunday since the campaign started back in October. I don’t know about that, although I do know that it has not run in my local newspaper every week for the last eight weeks.

I asked if Burlington loved this campaign, and the answer is almost certainly yes. Burlington is nearly getting a free-ride out of their sponsorship. Good Morning America is driving traffic to Burlington stores, apparently without requiring Burlington to pay for TV advertising.

Burlington’s contribution is to provide the drop-off boxes, the 10 percent coupon, and this snipe whenever they run a circular in the newspaper.

(They don’t, however, process the donated coats. That’s handled by local benefiting charities.)

This promotion asymmetrically benefits Burlington. Good for Burlington. But it does make me wonder if the media sponsor, ABC, is OK with that.

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