In this first of a series of articles focussing on brands and charities, we look at the potential benefits of a savvy tie-up or collaboration between the two, as well as the downsides to look out for.

Benefits

Fundraising

A collaboration with a brand can help a charity with their fundraising aims. There are a number of different ways this can work. A brand may make a one-off donation, or more often than not agree to donate a percentage of their sales.

Just take Cadbury’s and Age UK – for every bar of Dairy Milk sold Cadbury donated 30p to Age UK and their campaign to prevent loneliness amongst the older generations. This potentially gave Age UK a wider reach than through their traditional fundraising methods and further exposure that may increase fundraising in the long term.

A brand and charity may also decide to enter a longer term partnership, with the brand specifically raising money for that charity over the course of the collaboration – just look at Tesco and Diabetes UK, whose 2013/14 partnership raised over £18.6m for the charity.

Public Engagement

Today, more than ever before, consumers are highly conscious of the ethics and values of a brand. Partnering with a charity can help engage the public, as well as employees, who see the brand taking their social responsibility seriously. This in turn can help boost or drive sales.

The collaboration between Adidas and Parley for the Oceans, which sees plastic waste collected from oceans and beaches used to create trainers, has taken the public by storm – Adidas have gone from producing one million pairs in 2017 to 11 million in 2019.

Meanwhile, US clothing company Bombas donate a pair of specially designed socks to a homeless shelter or community organisation every time they sell an item of clothing. Their motto of “one purchased = one donated” has seen over 27 million donations across 2,500 outposts – and as they get bigger, so do their donations.

Awareness and Perception

Having the support of a high profile brand can do a great deal to push a certain charity or cause into the public eye and increase awareness.

The mental health charity CALM – the Campaign Against Living Miserably – has partnered with a range of brands over the last few years – such as Lynx, Topman, ITV and Harry’s – and their campaigns together have helped increase awareness of male suicide ten-fold, even leading to parliamentary debates.

The wave of “social influencers” has also been capitalised on with great results, with influencers promoting causes and campaigns to their followers and connections, the numbers of which often far outstrip those of the charity.

A partnership with a charity can also help a brand – growing or well established – connect with a different or wider audience and change public perception. This can apply equally to individuals, with no shortage of “celebrity brands” out there these days.

Whilst such characters can often be controversial, their charity work and donations to good causes can positively affect the public perception of their personal brand. Just take figures such as Elon Musk and Simon Cowell.

Marketing and PR

A tie-up can be great marketing and PR for a brand. In September 2019, Burger King stopped selling their flagship burger the “Whopper” across Argentina, and encouraged customers to head over to McDonalds, where for every Big Mac sold McDonalds would donate 2 USD to Children with Cancer.

The ‘A day without Whopper” campaign garnered great public support and shows how even rival brands can team up successfully for a good cause.

The picture of Ronald McDonald and the King holding hands was a piece of pure marketing genius!

Downsides

Reputation

There are reputational risks to both the brand and the charity. Imagine if a brand or charity with similar aims – for example, environmental sustainability – support one another, and then it comes out that one of them has been undertaking activities that don’t quite fit with that image. The reputation of the brand and charity could potentially be ruined in one fell swoop.

It’s therefore key for both brands and charities to do their research before agreeing a tie-up.

A partnership should also be subject to on-going reviews, with transparency at the forefront. In 2016, Age UK were criticised over the relationship between their commercial offshoot – Age UK Enterprises Limited – and E.ON, after claims were made that they were overcharging customers who signed up to a tariff specifically targeted at older customers. Ofgem cleared Age UK and E.ON over the tariff, but the Charity Commission noted greater transparency was needed around commercial agreements such as this.

Aligned Goals

It’s important to make sure that the values and goals of both the brand and the charity align – there’s no point collaborating where the end visions are different, or the routes to get there don’t match. It can otherwise lead to a breakdown of the relationship and potentially a very public falling out.

Alienating Members and the Public

There’s a risk that a collaboration might alienate members of a charity or the broader public. For example, the 26 year sponsorship of the Tate Modern by BP ended during 2016 amidst a series of climate change protests by the group Liberate Tate.

There’s therefore a fine balance between harnessing the value a certain brand can bring versus the potential impact any tie-up could have on loyal supporters.

Cynicism

The cynic in us may question the motives of a brand collaborating with a charity, or the amount or percentage of profits they donate. However, we’re often a hard old bunch to please, and this downside would appear fairly low down on the list of concerns.

Conclusion

A partnership between a brand and charity can be mutually beneficial. They are a great way to promote and raise awareness of a specific cause, and a brand can benefit from better public engagement and higher sales. However, as with any collaboration, there are potential downsides and these should be carefully considered.