Cause Marketing to the Fashionable Man

The year is 1885 and the organization building the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty runs out of money. Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York newspaper The World, runs an editorial saying that he would print the name of everyone who donated even one penny to the fund. Sure enough pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters start rolling in, along with larger donations. Construction resumes and by April 1886, the pedestal is finished and ready for Lady Liberty.

It’s an old ploy, but the men’s magazine Gentlemen’s Quarterly is using it to raise money for The Gentlemen’s Fund, which in turn raises money for four nonprofit charities; Oceana, represented in this ad by actor Adrian Grenier, Feeding America,, the classroom teacher-funding charity, and Natural Resources Defense Council.

When you donate $100 you can be recognized in GQ’s December 2011 Men of the Year issue. Donation amounts of $200 or more receive a few extra benefits in addition to mention in the magazine.

Called Gentlemen Give Back, the editorial mention is just one of three ways The Gentlemen’s Fund raises money for its benefiting charities. The site takes direct donations for the four charities, they sponsor a benefit called The Gentlemen’s Ball in New York City in October, and they sell merchandise. The charities may also get a take of the sponsorship money.

And, oh, what a list of sponsors! The Gentlemen’s Fund sponsors are veritable who’s who of men’s fashion houses and goodies that end in vowels; Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Porsche, Prada, Gucci, Versace, along with IWC watches, Barneys, Land Rover, Hugo Boss, and a bunch of other chi-chi brands conspicuously absent from my closet and garage.

The celebrity support is solid, too. We already know about Adrian Grenier. Actor David Arquette supports Feeding America, TV host Jimmy Fallon the Natural Resources Defense Council, and actor Ashton Kutcher stands up for and his own charitable foundation called DNA, which fights child sex slavery.

Gentlemen’s Quarterly
is published by Cónde Nast, which is also the publisher of Vogue, where the Grenier ad came from.

I like the idea of targeting men with this stylish celebrity-driven cause marketing that is so familiar to female audiences. I certainly think Cónde Nast is giving the campaign respectable support; I’ve seen Gentlemen’s Fund ads in sister magazines including Wired, Vanity Fair, and Golf Digest.

But I wonder how well it’s actually doing.

The website says the 2010 The Gentlemen’s Ball in 2010, which featured live appearances by Fallon, Kutcher, and Arquette, and a video from Grenier, attracted 300 guests and “raised $400,000.” I don’t know if that’s net or gross, although I do know how expensive it is to throw a charity ball in New York City.

But I can all but guarantee that any of the better charity balls held during New York’s Fashion Week earlier this year did better.