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What is cause marketing. It is a way to build your business brand by partnering with a cause. We are not talking about the cross-marketing strategy that is used when two or more companies team up to market their respective products/services to the audience of other companies (for example, the association between Disney and McDonald's for movies, merchandise, and food).

This strategy (cause marketing) is about partnering with causes that are dear to your business, your customers, and your prospects.

This strategy is widely used by several companies for different reasons. A popular example is an association between the NFL and the American Cancer Society. The NFL wanted to enter the women's market and increase its notoriety. What could be better than partnering with an important cause to women such as breast cancer? But the level of commitment must be high. Here are some of the actions that were taken by the NFL to encourage the fight against breast cancer:

  • The NFL was involved with the cause of breast cancer from 2009 to 2016. It continues today, but its involvement extends to all forms of cancer with the "Crucial Catch" campaign.
  • As of October 4, 2016 ( the NFL had given 15 million to the "American Cancer Society".
  • Throughout October, players, coaches, and officials were required to wear pink to celebrate the cause.
  • Items in pink colors are sold at dealerships at various football stadiums. The proceeds are donated to the "American Cancer Society".
  • With this example, we can see that:

  • Engagement is important (visibility, amount of money, message, number of people affected, etc.)
  • Engagement is strategic (the NFL wanted to enter the women's market, see:
  • The engagement is long-term and not "opportunistic".
  • The choice of the cause is consistent with the values of the company.
  • Another element in this strategy is the fact that football is a violent sport, with a high risk of injury and has had its fair share of behavioral problems on and off the field. With this association, the NFL wants to send a strong message that overall health is important, including that of women. That last point was the Achilles' heel of this campaign as critics were suggesting that the NFL was not doing enough for the health and safety of women at home (domestic violence issues).

    This last point is crucial; if you want to associate your business with a cause, make sure that your actions align with the message. There must be congruence between what you support and what you do.

    In conclusion, if you want to build your brand, partnering with a cause can be a good idea. It helps position your brand, build audience loyalty, increase your brand awareness, and build a closer relationship with your market.

    But to be successful, here are the points that should be considered:

  • Choose a cause that aligns with your values ??as a business and that of your audience.
  • Make a real commitment. Not just at the financial level. You can dedicate time, awareness (sharing information about your ads or audience), resources, etc.
  • Do not get involved with a cause for media coverage. Do it because you believe in it. Authenticity is paramount.
  • Check that your business, its actions, and its publications are in line with the cause. There is no point in supporting a cause if your company has been found guilty of something that the cause wants to improve. Unless you have a clear message that explains the learning and the actions that resulted from this "error".
  • Be strategic in how you share information about your association. This should not be opportunism.
  • Be careful with the popular causes. Do not jump on the bandwagon because you think that you can ride the wave and get positive coverage from this.
  • If you are having difficulties finding something to get associated with, here are some ideas:

  • Health research centers (for different diseases)
  • Humanitarian companies (Centraide, Unicef, Greenpeace, etc.)
  • Organizations supporting your community (Suicide Action, Salvation Army, Sun Youth, etc.)
  • School boards and sports or cultural activities (sports teams, camps, school trips, etc.)
  • Trade missions (organized by chambers of commerce or business schools)
  • Philanthropic funds (For example, in Quebec:
  • Study grants (For example, in Quebec:
  • Museums
  • Orchestras
  • Cultural activities
  • And more…
  • One aspect of cause marketing and the effect it will have on your brand is at the level of your team. Choose your cause well, involve your employees and you will have a proud and committed team that will feel like they are making a difference. This effect is even more present if the members of your team are young people.

    If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me.


    Stéphane Elmaleh-Riel, B.Ed., MBA
    Marketing consultant