Cause related marketing saved Tina’s life

nfl1Over the years, I’ve urged non-profit organizations to exercise tremendous caution when contemplating a cause related marketing strategy as part of their resource development plan. There was the December 2012 post titled “Cause related marketing 101: Educate, educate, educate!” Then there was the February 2013 post titled “Bad cause related marketing is offensive” based on my personal experience with buying a new pair of glasses at the mall. Most recently, there was “Non-profits must be careful with cause related marketing,” which was based on another personal experience with an internet vendor.

Some people have called me a skeptic of cause related marketing, which is not true. I just strongly believe that media is powerful and employing this strategy wrong can do lots of damage very quickly to your brand. So, when I saw the NFL’s newest “A Crucial Catch” public service announcement during yesterday’s games, I knew I just had to blog about it today.

The commercial opens up with a woman telling us that her name is Tina; she is a New York Jets fan; and she is a breast cancer survivor. As she tells her story, you get pulled in and emotionally connected which is when they drop the bomb. Towards the end of the commercial, she credits the NFL with saving her life. It was because of the NFL’s awareness efforts and cause related marketing campaign that Tina performed her first self examinations. These initial self exams resulted in a visit to the doctor and early detection.

Haven’t seen the commercial? Click here or on the image below to check it out. Trust me . . . it is worth the click!

breast cancer CRM

First, let me say that I forgive Tina for being a Jets fan.  😉

Second, let me congratulate Tina for beating breast cancer and having the courage to tell her story to millions of people.

Finally, I encourage all non-profit organizations who are looking for a benchmarking project, prior to jumping into a cause related marketing campaign, to look at this campaign. It is rock solid and everyone can learn from this textbook example.

The American Cancer Society has raised millions of dollars primarily through two funding vehicles: 1) the sale of pink NFL merchandise and 2) an auction of sports related items by the NFL.

nfl2If you want to know more about this campaign, Forbes magazine’s Alicia Jessop did a nice job in an October 2012 article titled “The NFL’s A Crucial Catch Campaign Raises Millions for the American Cancer Society” of summarizing the essence of the campaign.

I really love the mutually beneficial relationship between the NFL and the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society gets:

  • Revenue
  • Exposure for its brand
  • Awareness of its issue

The NFL gets:

  • Positive exposure for its brand (e.g. The Halo Effect)
  • Awareness of its product (e.g. football) by a powerful segment of consumers — women

The thing I love most about this cause related marketing campaign is the contrast it creates, which in and of itself makes people pay attention to an important issue. What I mean by this is that football is a uniquely masculine product with lots of testosterone, and breast cancer (in most people’s minds) is a uniquely feminine issue (even though there are a small number of men diagnosed with this cancer ever year and countless men and boys are devastated when the women in their lives are diagnosed).

If you want to learn more about cause related marketing, you may want to check of some of the following resources:

To all of you who follow the DonorDreams blog, let me be one of the first to wish you a happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Please practice and promote prevention.

I also want to take a moment to congratulate my sister-in-law who was diagnosed in her early 30s with breast cancer and has been cancer-free for more than 10 years. You’re a fighter and inspiration, Anne! Now please take your brother to a Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving. I’m tired of hearing him whine about it.

Is your organization looking at a cause related marketing campaign? What are some of the obstacles in your way? What are you doing to overcome those obstacles? What does your planning process look like so that you can avoid the bad campaigns I’ve previously written about and referenced in the beginning of this post?

Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health! (And think pink)  😉

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


  1. True…a very solid campaign…True…spectacular financial rewards for a very worthy cause (my wife is a breast cancer survivor so this hits home)…True…we could all benefit from such a rock solid relationship with the NFL and even…the New York Jets…True…our lil ol; non-profit in market 126 needs to be wary of bad cause marketing…True…excellent example of rock solid…True…I’m still wondering how to apply this…in the vernacular of our SF sports station KNBR “good knowledge”….thanks…spde

    1. Thanks, Amplifier Monterey!

      You may be small and the example I provided today may be BIG, but there are lots of things you can learn by examining this case study. My suggestion and next few baby steps might be:

      1. Recruit a few marketing volunteers from your community and form a task force

      2. Collect and review material about the basics of CRM (Google is your friend on this task). Here is one:

      3. Dissect the example I wrote about today.

      4. Identify prospective cause related marketing partners in your local community. They don’t need to be BIG. It could be your local supermarket, mall, or insurance broker.

      5. Start reaching out and sitting down with your prospects to learn as much as you can about their products/services. Look for commonality.

      Once you set these simple steps in motion, you will be well on your way to developing your first CRM campaign.

      A few tips:

      * Be patient and don’t rush into anything.
      * Test all of your messaging with donors using focus groups (doesn’t have to be very formal or expensive)
      * Be deliberate
      * Make sure your formalize everything in writing and engage lawyers to help you.
      * Start small and don’t bite off too much all at once. You can always grow this over the years.

      Good luck!

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