By Lucy Spratlin, Account Director, For Momentum
Whether wearing Panther Blue or Bronco Orange this weekend, sports fans are among the most enthusiastic and loyal audiences. They count down the days till the season starts, devote hours to watching highlights and spend big dollars on tickets, gear and other merchandise. Channeling that enthusiasm can be powerful for causes, which is why we’re likely to see a number of cause-related commercials during Sunday’s big game. We’ll be sharing some of our favorite Super Bowl ads in a blog post next week. But for now, we’re kicking off a look at some “super” sports cause marketing partnerships. Since football has four quarters, I’ve rounded up four favorites, in no particular order.
The NFL PLAY 60 Challenge
The National Football League’s PLAY 60 Challenge is an excellent example of a cause marketing partnership where multiple partners work together to tackle one cause—in this case, childhood obesity. The NFL works with like-minded corporate and nonprofit partners to design and help implement in-school, afterschool and team-based exercise programs for kids. They’ve even built online and mobile tools to encourage parents and kids to get active at NFLRUSH.com.
As an example, nonprofit partner American Heart Association worked with the NFL and Discovery Education to provide interactive lesson plans and resources that inspire teachers and kids to get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day in school and at home. The PLAY 60 Challenge lesson plans include ideas on how to incorporate physical activity breaks in the classroom.
MLB and Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Last fall, Major League Baseball celebrated its 20-year partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America*, the official charity of the MLB. League Commissioner Rob Manfred and the Royals hosted an event for kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City before Game One of the World Series to celebrate MLB’s commitment to youth initiatives. This is just one example of the nationwide awareness and celebrity involvement that Boys & Girls Clubs enjoy as part of this sports cause marketing partnership.
In addition to public service announcements and advertising valued at more than $25 million annually, Boys & Girls Clubs benefit from $20 million in direct and indirect funding generated by Major League Baseball over the last decade. The success of this cause marketing partnership is due in large part to the fact that many major league players have personal ties to Boys & Girls Clubs. Alumni include baseball legends like Joe DiMaggio and Frank Robinson and current stars like CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez.
Coaches vs. Cancer
The American Cancer Society* stands out for several best-in-class sports relationships that have yielded significant impact for the organization. The nonprofit maintains a 23+ year relationship with the National Association of Basketball Coaches that has aligned dozens of NCAA men’s basketball coaches with the fight against cancer. Together, Coaches vs. Cancer has raised more than $87 million.
This year, corporate partner Shoe Carnival is working with American Cancer Society to launch a new custom product “Princess Lacey’s Laces.” The laces memorialize a young cancer patient and University of Michigan basketball super fan who captured everyone’s heart during the 2013-2014 NCAA tournament. During this college basketball season, coaches around the country are lacing up for Lacey in her memory and supporting the cause.
Drive to End Hunger
Every day, seniors in this country skip meals as a way to stretch their dollars and make ends meet. In 2010, the AARP entered into the first-ever cause-related sponsorship of a major race car team. With Jeff Gordon behind the wheel of his #24 car on behalf of Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR, the AARP Foundation has benefitted from unprecedented awareness and a platform to educate NASCAR fans about the problem of senior hunger. Since the Drive to End Hunger launched, thousands of volunteers have packaged more than 34 million meals that are then distributed to at-risk seniors via local food banks and hunger relief agencies.
These are only a few examples of how professional and collegiate programs have formed successful strategic partnerships with nonprofits to elevate their sport and help raise awareness and funds for issues ranging from youth development to ending hunger. These sports cause marketing partnerships leverage the teams, their players, coaches and fans to give back in super ways.