Shari Boyer is the CEO and Co-Founder of GSG, a marketing company that creates programs that target the active lifestyle, environmentally conscious consumers who visit state parks each year. She has created cause-related programs for corporations such as Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Toyota, General Mills, Canon, The North Face, Subaru, and American Express. You can read more about her company here.
With today’s cutbacks and shrinking budgets many public entities are turning more often to cause marketing programs with the private sector to continue vital programs, and sometimes even to keep their doors open.
Public/Private Partnerships Now the Norm
While these public/private partnerships have been used successfully for decades, it’s become apparent that these programs are now considered the norm. In fact, in 2010, Harvard’s JFK School of Government began recognizing creative initiatives between the public and private sector with its Bright Idea awards to shed a light on innovative and collaborative programs that create benefits for all. I encourage marketers in the private sector to consider strategically sound programs that create social value while at the same time underscore the mission of a company – whether in the realm of education, environmental stewardship, health care, public transportation or any other social cause.
The good news is that cause partnerships can be highly effective on many levels. First, and most obvious, is that they raise badly needed funds. The campaigns also garner positive brand equity and publicity for the company by spreading the cause story and attracting countless new supporters, who otherwise might never be involved. Successful programs start with brands thoughtfully choosing a cause that connects with the public and the company, and then engaging the consumer in an active, authentic way through a fully integrated campaign.
Example: Preserve Our Parks
One such example is “Preserve Our Parks”, a campaign initiated by my company, which annually brings together Stater Bros. Supermarkets, Coca-Cola and the California State Parks with a program including retail promotion and consumer activation, in park messaging, social media, PR, and a community and employee volunteer clean up. In its third year, the campaign aims to raise $750,000 this spring to add to the $1.2 million raised in previous years to benefit park preservation in cash-strapped state parks throughout Southern California. With state parks facing possible closures across the country, there’s been an outpouring of support from the public to keep these local treasures intact and implement programs that would otherwise not happen without private sector help.
I also like the way Kellogg’s integrates the social and organizational values in its “Share Your Breakfast” campaign by tying the importance of breakfast to success in school. The program not only provides breakfasts to kids in need but also encourages kids to give back in a fun way. Every time a person shares a photo or description of their breakfast, Kellogg’s donates $1 to provide breakfast to the estimated one in four school children in the U.S. who live in food-insecure homes.
Example: High Tech High
The high-tech world also has many successful public/private partnerships that raise money for immediate and long-range causes. In San Diego, a group of high-tech industry leaders joined with civic leaders to address the challenge of finding qualified talent for the burgeoning high-tech work force. The result was High Tech High to support public education so students better prepare for success in the workplace. What started in 2000 as one charter high school has now expanded to nine schools for kids K-12 and 3,500 students.
Example: Bag to Tree
Consumers play a major role in Bag to Tree, an innovative, national campaign that brings together Honest Tea and the National Forest Foundation. By buying four bottles of Honest Tea, customers receive a reusable grocery bag that comes with a free, unique code to plant a tree online. “Bag to Tree” is aligned with Honest Tea’s products that are organic, healthy and created with sustainability practices. The brand has developed a highly dedicated customer base, and this campaign reflects both the company and customer values. The program will help reforest five areas of our country that have been affected by fire and other disasters, but also acts as a retail activation opportunity for Honest Tea.
The Future of Public/Private Cause Partnerships
So, what is ahead for public/private cause partnerships? I see them becoming even more widespread, more sophisticated and even more diversified to help keep up with the growing needs of the public sector. Companies are stepping up as a force for positive social change, and that’s good business for all.
Have you seen any public/private partnerships of note? What do you think of this growing trend? Let us know in the comments section.
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