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A Challenge to Cause Marketers on the Eve of the Super Bowl

The September 27, 2007 Forbes magazine 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. 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 marketing is… in the main… just a form of sponsorship. Why isn’t your cause making a $336 million per day like the Super Bowl?

Think of all the advantages your cause enjoys.
  • It has tremendous heart.
  • It has a list of supporters who literally open their wallets for you several times a year.
  • Some of your supporters are as passionate about your cause as any face-painting fan of the World Cup or the Olympics.
  • It powerfully impacts the lives of millions (or thousands) every year.
  • Its name recognition in your market segment is very high.
  • It gets plenty of positive publicity (right?).
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 like the NBA Finals?

In a word, it’s a TV contract.

While you’re busy pitching story ideas to get free publicity for your cause campaign, all those events on the top nine 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 in a big industrial range while you’re cooking 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 almost custom-made for television.

But not many people 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…[best price I saw for one ticket at Super Bowl 45 was $2200. And it’s in the nosebleed section of Cowboys Stadium] 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.

The TV contract however is a taller order. You’re going to have to come up with a crazy-good concept and you’ll have to sell it like crazy. Even after years of hard work full success will still take years.

Stand Up to Cancer has done it by restyling the decades-old telethon model. You’ll probably have to do something different.

But take a lesson from the Super Bowl. It took the NFL 35 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 others, even if none of them were nonprofits.

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

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