Remember the time when the only concern of a for-profit company was “maximizing shareholder value”? If you don’t, no problem. That philosophy is a relic of the past.
Today, 87% of consumers will purchase a product because the seller advocated for an issue consumers cared about. Increasingly, society looks to private companies to make the positive changes in the world that governments don’t or won’t. Consequently, “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) continues to replace shareholder value as an important concern of companies.
As a sponsorship professional, I would expect our industry to track this important trend in corporate governance. However, sponsorships lag in this regard. With CSR integration in sponsorship, there’s a valuable opportunity to cultivate consumer goodwill and, consequently, boost the impact of a sponsorship. If your sponsorship strategy does not yet include CSR, there are four ways to get started.
1. Causes related to sponsorships. As part of the overall sponsorship strategy, incorporate a cause into your sponsorship goals or activation. Example: Recently, the NBA supported a NBA2K esports tournament for fan entertainment. However, the event included COVID-19 relief efforts as well.
2. Unrelated causes integrated in sponsorship. Many times, a sponsor will integrate an existing cause or CSR initiative into a sponsorship regardless of the connection with the sponsorship. Example: Honda Canada supports the Honda Indy Toronto INDYCAR event each year. Honda Canada integrates its existing relationship with Make-A-Wish of Canada into multiple facets of the event. Make-A-Wish has no connection to the Indy race or to racing, but has a valuable opportunity to speak to the audience of this event.
3. Sponsorship of causes. Non-profits often promote events having a sponsorable component. Example: Ford Motor Company and Bank of America speak to their commitment to breast cancer awareness and prevention as partners of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
4. Establish CSR Policies within Events. Today, events express CSR directly through their operations. It could include integration of diverse vendors, inclusion of non-profits in event displays or food/beverage concessions, or adoption of environmental sustainability initiatives. Sometimes, properties take the lead with their events. Other times, sponsors require heightened CSR awareness within events they support.
Merging CSR policies with sponsorship strategy offers an opportunity to supercharge the impact of sponsorship. This trend continues to build momentum as organizations emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic anxious to give back to their communities and societies. Because of the importance and focus on CSR, combining social responsibility with sponsorship is clearly a case of 1 plus 1 equaling 3.