When to End a Cause Marketing Relationship

Normally, when it comes to cause marketing longer relationships are better for sponsor and charity alike. Think Rolling Stones and U2 not one-hit-wonder bands like Fountains of Wayne or Los Lonely Boys. That’s because cause marketing is a form of co-branding and like any branding endeavor it takes years for brands to achieve real customer awareness. Frequently changing partners confuses customers and stakeholders.

For instance, I can all but guarantee you that even after more than 15 years of deep association, in a test of unaided recall few people would be able to identify Subway Sandwiches and the American Heart Association as cause marketing partners.

I’ve written before that lasting corporate-cause relationships are like marriages that require constant upkeep. Or like bank accounts whereto you must make frequent deposits to cover the inevitable withdrawals.

But there are certainly times when it makes sense to end cause marketing relationships.

For causes it’s probably more so a dollars and cents issue than it is even for the sponsor.

In the United States and Canada where charities are granted tax exempt status by the IRS and Canada Revenue Agency and in England and Scotland with the status conferred to Registered Charities, it’s all but immoral for charities to remain involved with a campaign that costs the charity more than it generates.

And any charity that remains in a relationship that is “unprofitable” will be rightly second-guessed by its board, the press, and the public.

But there are other reasons for charities or sponsors to “break up.”

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