Last week in part one of our two-part sports and cause marketing blog series, we shared how traditional and esports cause marketing campaigns are changing the game. Now we’re going to dive deeper into how the social justice reckoning of the last year has driven greater emphasis on purpose across the world of professional sports.
In a climate of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person event cancellations, political polarization, and widespread conversation about social justice after the death of George Floyd just over a year ago, something changed. Consumers shifted from preferring to demanding accountability and action from the brands they support. 59% of Americans say it is no longer acceptable for companies to stay silent on social justice issues.
These consumer demands don’t stop at products on shelves. The expectation for purpose has extended to professional sports teams and players at a level never before seen. According to a recent ESPN poll, 71% of sports fans support teams and athletes speaking out on issues of social justice and racial inequality, and 38% are more likely to be loyal to a brand that sponsors these voices.
We’ve seen the consumer influence play out in recent league decisions:
- Major League Baseball moved its All-Star game out of Atlanta in protest of Georgia’s new voting laws
- Women’s National Basketball Association players wore Breonna Taylor’s name on their uniforms
- The Washington Football Team announced they “…will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name”
How else are professional sports teams handling this call to action from fans, media and stakeholders? Many are teaming up with cause partners, CSR experts and like-minded brands.
Here are three examples of outstanding sports cause partnerships focused on social justice impact:
Los Angeles pro sports teams unite as The Alliance to use sport for social justice
In forming The Alliance, all 11 L.A. teams have committed to using sports and social programming to drive structural change to end racial inequality in communities of color, particularly Black communities. The Alliance is partnering with the Play Equity Fund to offer better access and opportunity for youth in the city to join athletic programs regardless of their family’s income or zip code.
Bud Light and the National Football League spotlight Black-owned restaurants
During the 2020 Thursday night NFL games, Bud Light included a segment called “Bud Light Thursday Night Shoutout” spotlighting stories of local Black-owned businesses alongside their menu items. Bud Light also teamed up with an innovative food directory app, EatOkra, to promote Black-owned restaurants throughout the 2020 NFL season.
Women’s National Basketball Association team Seattle Storm’s Force4Change social justice campaign in partnership with the NAACP, Swedish, Symetra and others
The Storm announced its Force4Change initiative in 2020 as a comprehensive social justice platform. It focuses on four key areas related to voter registration and the amplification of Black women, LGBTQ+ leaders of color and organizations serving Black communities:
- Education on voter engagement to combat voter suppression
- Highlighting of businesses and organizations serving Black communities during the COVID-19 pandemic in partnership with Swedish, the healthcare provider for the Seattle Storm
- Sharing of the stories of these Community Champions with a donation of $2,000 from the Storm to each one
- Hosting of Believe in Women Night in partnership with Symetra, honoring Black women leaders from across the Greater Puget Sound region and donating the sales of T-Shirts to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Which of these sports cause partnership examples inspires you most? What other social justice campaigns have resonated with you that we haven’t captured here? Drop us a note in the comments or contact us to start a conversation. We’d love to keep the dialogue going.