What does the NFL have to do with breast cancer? Why does a league of all male players and majority male owners and GM’s feel the need to show its support of women?

{DeAngelo Williams NFL Running Back}

Because it makes a statement.

In a sport that markets itself as the arena for almost gladiatorial demonstrations, there is something so shocking about the bright pinks that attracts the viewer, especially a woman who has never cared much about football before.

This case is one of the most successful examples of cause marketing. Cause marketing, to put it simply, is a partnership between a brand and a non-profit organization that works on a specific initiative. The most common initiatives involve health, social advocacy, the environment and wildlife, children and other vulnerable groups, and global issues such as poverty and hunger. As the world has become more interconnected and diffuse with information, more people have a sense of social responsibility and want to get involved. Especially among younger people, such as college students, there is a felt need to bring about positive change in the world. Brands have a big role to play in these efforts.   

When a brand aligns itself with a specific organization and cause, it can use its popularity, capital, and influence to raise awareness and garner donations. For example, Walmart has partnered with the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals during their Miracle Balloon Campaign. During this campaign, Walmart cashiers simply ask for a donation when customers are checking out. In exchange for their donation, customers can put their name or a loved one’s name on a miracle balloon. To illustrate the effectiveness of this cause marketing campaign, in 2012, Walmart stores raised an incredible $122 a minute! These funds could then be used to help the children in these hospitals, and their families. By partnering with a big-name brand, the organization gained exposure and its cause gained immense support.   

Other cause marketing successes include:

  • Starbucks and (RED) for World AIDS day
  • Jeep and United Services Organization for Operation Safe Return
  • Reebok and Avon for The Walk to End Breast Cancer
  • Subway and the American Heart Association for Heart Healthy Meals
  • Unilever and Dove for the Campaign for Real Beauty
  • Coke and World Wildlife Fund for Arctic Home
  • Mattress Firm and Protect-A-Bed for Pajama Drive Campaign

Brands also stand to benefit immensely from cause marketing strategies on multiple fronts. Brands show the public that they too are socially conscious, thereby attracting new customers and building loyalty with old ones. Brands such as Tom’s and Warby Parker are recognizable, yes for their products, but also largely due to the nature of their businesses. They use a “buy one, give one” model that stands as the staple of their brands. When a customer buys their products, they know that an immediate impact will be made in the life of someone else, and they are more likely to buy that product again. It is important to consumers that businesses spread the wealth instead of being preoccupied with profit. By building personal relationships with their customers, brands can foster their own goals and those of their customers.

It should also be mentioned that brands can get write-offs for their donations, which is perhaps a minor incentive given the grand possibilities that are presented through cause marketing. In addition, a track record of supporting important causes can save businesses in the event that they fall short of their responsibility, in the public view.

So why does the NFL wear pink for a month:

  • To recognize their social responsibility
  • To have an impact   
  • To gain a new audience
  • To build personal relationships
  • To stand for something 

As Malcolm X said, if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything. We all need to stand for something: as individuals, as communities, and as a brand. 


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