Mars moves to cement Lion’s Share fund as a standalone brand in hunt for more partners

The Lion's Share Fund launched last year

Mars plans to build a brand campaign around the wildlife fund it launched last year, in order to boost its list of advertiser partners promising to siphon off a percentage of their ad spend towards the Lion’s Share causes.

The company joined forces with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to launch the Lion’s Share Fund in June 2018, pledging a percentage of its ad spend to wildlife conservation and animal welfare non-profits.

At the time, Mars urged other brands to follow suit and donate a suggested 0.5% of media spend for the campaign to feature an animal, with the aim of raising more than $100 million per year for the fund within the next three years.

Now, nine months since the launch, Mars’ chief marketing officer has revealed media brands JCDecaux and The Economist will contribute the same percentage of ad revenue for every critter-based campaign they run. Additionally, BBDO has signed up as a creative backer alongside founding agency Finch, while Nielson has committed its services as information, data and measurement partner.

Humane Society International, an animal protection organization with a particular remit to support companion animals, was yesterday (March 14) named as a Lion’s Share partner charged with delivering a global animal welfare program.

However, the fund is still lacking the big advertiser partners that will join Mars in donating ad spend.

Jane Wakely, chief marketing officer of Mars Pet Nutrition, is confident this will change soon.

“We’re in the process of signing people up – this is a big commitment from companies, so it takes time,” she told The Drum.

Mars is actively courting “like-minded” businesses: those that exhibit “innovation strategy and purpose”. A hefty media spend is, naturally, a bonus too, as is a diverse point of view, according to Wakely.

But while the marketer’s team are working to pull in additional partners through outreach, Mars plans to push companies towards the fund through campaigning, too. The Economist and JCDecaux have pledged media space to house future work, which will comprise “stories of hope” from the worlds of conservation and companion animal care, as well as the story around the Lion’s Share itself.

“[We want to say] something very important to the companies that may choose to contribute,” said Wakely. “We want to build a brand around Lion’s Share and that will take a lot of time and a lot of investment.

“My objective is certainly not to make Lion’s Share a Mars initiative. Success will come when there are so many brands involved that you can’t even see the Mars logo on the sheet.”

A new 'conceptual framework'

That logo has recently changed form: Tuesday (March 12) saw Mars roll out a new emblem and mission statement in ‘The world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today’.

It’s a neat fit for Mars’ work on the Lion’s Share, however, Wakely believes the parent brand redesign is not a sudden company overhaul in the era of purpose-led marketing but “a brilliant articulation of what we’re trying to do over the last decade”.

“Mars has traditionally been a very private company,” she explained, “so what [the redesign] does give us is a fantastic conceptual framework within which we can share the many innovations that we are working on.

"I believe Lion’s Share ... absolutely has that spirit of ‘tomorrow starts today’, so it will absolutely be part of our communications strategy as one of our flagship innovations.”

The Lion’s Share has already allocated funds to three projects: purchasing land to safeguard orangutan and tiger habitats in Sumatra, Indonesia; upgrading a digital radio communication system at the Niassa National Reserve, Mozambique; and launching an African elephant economics Study to catalyze government investment in elephant conservation and promotion of wildlife-based economy.

It’s relatively fast progress for the fund’s coalition, and Wakely is confident a second wave of interest and cash will head its way soon.

“We’ve built the foundations, we’ve got the key partners and with the UNDP’s help we have a really transparent and professional governance mechanism in place,” she said. “What we need now is people’s help to roar about that call to action, which will drive mass reach into the industry but also put pressure on others to join up.”

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