Brands like Carphone Warehouse are swapping the wine for workouts to tick the CSR box

John Reynolds, a former Campaign, Marketing and Media Week journalist who now freelances for titles including The Guardian, casts his eye over the big stories in sports marketing.

January may be the month for individuals to detoxify their bodies with a Dryathlon.

Carphone Warehouse is expected to ditch its raucous ball

But a month long abstinence is small beer in comparison to brands, which in 2014 are swapping the white wine for the workout for the entire year.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives are nothing new and are now fundamental to a brand’s perception, but there is evidence that brands’ CSR endeavours are not getting push through, and are failing to resonate with employees.

This was evinced by the Reputation Institute’s recent global CSR report which found that despite top companies spending on average $50m a year on CSR initiatives, more than half of those surveyed were unsure if these brands were good corporate citizens and treated their employees well.

Perhaps heeding this, Carphone Warehouse is this year expected to ditch its legendary Carphone Warehouse ball, a raucous bacchanalia of 8,000 sweaty telco execs larging it big time on the booze.

In its place, the company is encouraging its staff to sign up to a 100km two day endurance walk, which it is to sponsor for the first time – already 100 have signed up ahead of tickets being on offer.

Kesah Trowell, CSR lead at Carphone Warhouse, said: “We are seeing less enthusiasm for traditional networking events centred on alcohol as people choose health over hangovers. The discipline and training required in the lead up to this event benefit the employee long after they cross the finish line and you can really get to know someone over a 100km challenge!”

For Carphone Warehouse, sponsoring the event, organised by James Cracknell’s Threshold Sports and named Race to the Stones, ticks all the boxes.

Trowell continues: “In a single event we can achieve multiple CSR objectives around meaningful employee engagement, health and well-being, carbon reduction by encouraging employees to walk or run to work as part of the training and supporting our charity partner Get Connected.”

Also, Carphone Warehouse will invite its suppliers and agency partners along too, as it is far easier to strike a deal away from the fug of music and booze.

Likewise, Vodafone and Deloitte have gone down a similar route with their respective Big Bike Challenge and Ride Across Britain. Heinz, meanwhile, is focusing its efforts locally, be it by linking up with charities or athletic endeavours close to its key sites while O2 has its own CSR intranet sit.

That is not to say that brands are ditching revelry altogether, and no doubt this year’s awards evenings will be as alcohol-fuelled as ever.

What it perhaps shows is particular to Carphone Warehouse, which according to Nielsen spends around £18m on advertising a year, with nearly a third of it going on TV.

Carphone Warehouse has previously had its fingers burnt with TV sponsorship, after it pulled its sponsorship of Big Brother over the Shilpa Shetty race row.

Now, it is taking a break from big TV sponsorships and perhaps viewing health and wellbeing events as a better option for its marketing spend going forward.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.