Cause Marketing the Slightly Arcane

We all get cause marketing based on food and other consumables. But is cause marketing out of reach if the product you sell is a little on the esoteric side? What charity do you partner with and what is the shape of that partnership? How do you make sure your brand is really served by your sponsorship?

These and other questions came to me as I read a press release announcing Celestron’s sponsorship of the nonprofit Astronomers Without Borders (AWB).

Celestron is the world’s largest telescope maker, with a special emphasis on selling telescopes to serious amateur astronomers. Astronomers Without Borders seeks to promote “understanding and peaceful international relations, while also supporting outreach and education in astronomy.”

I don’t want to oversell the obscurity of telescopes. Astronomy and telescopes aren’t exactly invisible to the wider world. This isn’t Olympic badminton, after all.  

By the same token, amateur astronomy is not like the NBA or even the NHL in terms of public popularity.

Celestron’s sponsorship involves giving new telescopes to Astronomers Without Borders’ educational outreach efforts and other unspecified support. What might that look like? AWB is currently trying to fund a culturally-specific astronomy education project for schoolchildren in Afghanistan on indiegogo.com.

Celestron’s donated telescopes and other support will likely aid efforts like that.

In terms of the sponsorship with AWB and Celestron seem kind of new to this. AWB just plasters Celestron’s logo big and loud on its website, but with almost no context. Celestron’s internal search engine finds no mention of the AWB partnership. And the press release I read was full of vague generalities about what the sponsorship will do. They’d be well served by tightening that down a little.

But the wider lesson for the rest of us that sponsorship and cause marketing holds possibility and promise even for causes and sponsors that aren’t exactly household names.

(At left is an artist's conception of NASA's new Mars Science Laboratory, due to land on the red planet on Sunday, May 5, 2012).

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