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How charity partnerships can boost a brand's bottom line

Today marks Comic Relief's Red Nose Day

What’s not to love about Comic Relief? It’s a time when people can let their hair down and have a bit of fun, all for a very worthy cause.

And it’s great to see big brands get behind the initiative. This year is no exception, with the likes of BT, TK Maxx, Dove and Sainsbury’s officially partnering with the event, helping to raise millions by mobilising their staff and customers.

Comic Relief, like many other charities, including my own, has attracted big business backing because organisations increasingly recognise the commercial benefits of getting involved with the third sector. Certainly, they do it for altruistic reasons, but it’s also good for business.

Here are five ways in which brands we work with, and talk to, tell us that they benefit from their involvement with charities.

1. Engaged customers

Worthwhile causes can trigger powerful emotional reactions in customers that might be harder to evoke when just talking about your product. If there’s a shared sense of compassion and empathy with a charitable cause you support, customers will feel a genuine connection with your brand. In fact, research shows that 88 per cent of consumers say they are more likely to buy from a company that supports and engages in activities to improve society.

2. Productive employees

Research this year showed that when workers are given the option to support a charitable cause linked to their job, performance in the workplace can increase by 30 per cent. Many companies now select a preferred charity partner each year that all staff can get behind. This fosters a sense of togetherness and, by pooling their resources, staff can see their joint effort having a major impact. Such schemes can also help attract the best quality staff, raise employee retention and promote innovation.

We were lucky enough to be named Grant Thornton’s preferred charity partner last year. Their team did a phenomenal job of raising significant sums for StreetGames, but we know their staff also got a lot out of working with us and the disadvantaged youngsters we support.

3. Multi-channel marketing

Charity partnerships can be particularly effective when used cross-channel. For example, Coca-Cola GB partnered with us for an on-pack redemption campaign during last year’s FIFA World Cup. For less than the cost of a 15-second X-Factor final ad, Coca-Cola received over 900,000 entries, making it one of their most successful on-pack promotions ever. At the same time, an online video showing our joint work with young people in disadvantaged communities was watched over 1 million times and was very well received on social media.

4. Attracting investment

Many investors (both private and institutional) now factor corporate social responsibility into their selection process. You need to think of your current brand as a CV for future investment – positive and credible contributions to a charitable cause can help you stand out from other companies.

5. New insights

Collaborating with a charity can give brands the ability to tap into knowledge about communities that they might struggle to fully understand from the outside. This can lead to new insights into what makes your customers tick, be they from a particular locality, a specific demographic, or a disadvantaged community. Brands can also learn from how charities work with their target audiences and engage communities. Of course, this works both ways. We have certainly learnt a lot from how our commercial partners run their businesses too.

Getting the most from a charity partnership means selecting the right cause in the first place. So, look for charities that share your values, that serve similar people to your target customers, or that address issues your staff care about. For the Football Pools, another of our commercial backers, supporting the work we do to mobilise the power of football to change underprivileged young peoples’ lives and change their communities was a natural fit.

And I would also urge brands to look at charity partnerships as long-term, sustainable investments. When this happens, we usually see real solutions to real societal problems.

Jane Ashworth OBE is CEO of national sport charity, StreetGames

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