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Repeat After Me, Cause Marketing is Co-Branding

FSIs or Free-Standing Inserts are those booklets of coupons mailed to your address or stuffed into your Sunday newspaper. They’ve been a hallmark of cause marketing almost from the very earliest days when much of cause marketing involved consumer packaged goods (CPG). For a time the use of FSIs to distribute coupons was declining, but they’ve surged again during the Great Recession, as has the average value of coupons.

The cover of FSI at the left, sponsored by the British-Dutch CPG company Unilever, features the cause Boy’s and Girls Clubs of America. It dropped on May 17. My FSI had eight pages of Unilever coupons not counting the cover, along with at least that many more pages from non-Unilever products.

Unilever, the body copy on the cover tells us, is donating $250,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of America. But that’s the full extent of the co-branding. Where’s the paragraph or two of explanation of all the valuable things Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) do for school-age kids? Where’s an ancillary promotion benefiting the BGCA? Where’s the additional photos of BGCA kids learning or being active at their local club? Where’s BGCA’s URL or Facebook page?

Cause marketing is co-branding, just as much as those Coke cups on the judges’ desks on American Idol is co-branding. Implicit in the idea of co-branding is that both parties benefit. Coke keeps its brand in front of a young audience. American Idol makes a few nickels from the deal, sure, but it also benefits from being associated with one of America’s most enduring brands. Coke and Idol both win.

Now BGCA got $250,000 for about the amount of effort it took to take the check to the bank. And easy money in these troubled times is especially valuable for charities.

But when a sponsor demonstrates to customers and potential customers why supporting their cause of choice is not only wise but emotionally satisfying, you make your sponsorship more valuable than just a logo and 30 words of copy.

BGCA isn’t off the hook here. They should have insisted that as a condition to the sponsorship that they get not just the cash, but an endorsement from Unilever in the form of page of explanation in the FSI of BGCA.

Procter & Gamble, a smart marketer if ever there was one, shows this every year with their FSI that’s themed to the Special Olympics. In their May 1, 2011 Special Olympics themed FSI at left, P&G devoted two pages beyond the cover to co-brand its long-time partner.

Compare and contrast P&G’s fulsome support with this spare effort from Unilever.

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