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Cause Marketing for 'One Lucky School'

Henkel’s, the German consumer packaged goods company whose brands in America include Right Guard and Purex, is back again with its Get Kids Fit campaign effort and “one lucky school will win $25,000 in fitness cash to improve youth fitness at their school.”

You read that right, the total payout is $25,000 and it all goes to one school. Here’s how it works:

There’s a self-nomination procedure. You submit an essay with the answer to this question: “How could $25,000 be used to improve fitness, inspire self-esteem, and build teamwork at your school?” If your school gets past the first round, Henkel asks you to submit a video. The top finalists are voted on by the public, meaning the $25,000 winner is the school that does the best job of getting out the vote.

In the past, I’ve defended sponsors who spent more on a promotion than they give to their benefiting cause. And, in most cases, I’d still defend it.

That’s because if my cause is, say, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, I’d be glad to get a check for $250,000 while I also co-branded with the sponsor who was spending another $750,000 activating the promotion. If I were a nonprofit executive, I’d take that deal any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

But Calcedeaver Elementary in Mount Vernon, Alabama, which received $10,000 from Henkel in 2011 can’t use good publicity. The pittance of publicity Calcedeaver Elementary got by winning in 2011 has no fungible value. None. (In 2011, Henkel’s donation amount was $30,000; $10,000 each to the winning elementary, middle and high school.)

Moreover, winning is a tall order. There are 132,656 public and private schools in the United States, enrolling 55 million kids. No wonder Henkel characterizes the winner as “one lucky school.”

All of this would be OK if the Get Kids Fit contest was turning up and publicizing ground-breaking school fitness efforts. But if Henkel is getting great school fitness ideas, the company is keeping them to themselves.

Get Kids Fit, is cause marketing that does not work as an effective promotion. Nor does it meet the company’s avowed goal of addressing “the urgent health and fitness crisis among our nation’s youth by helping kids get fit and active.”

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