The Future of Non-Profit, Sports Marketing

(L to R) Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York; Naomi Hirabayashi, CMO of DoSomething.org; Matt Farrell, USA Swimming CMO; Maureen Morrisson, Moderator from Ad Age Magazine

(L to R) Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York; Naomi Hirabayashi, CMO of DoSomething.org; Matt Farrell, USA Swimming CMO; Maureen Morrisson, Moderator from Ad Age Magazine

I recently had the opportunity to share the stage at the Advertising Age CMO Strategy Summit (#cmo2013) with CMOs from some of the top companies in the country – CVS, Caribou Coffee, Denny’s, Taco Bell, Hershey’s, Hillshire Brands and more. My role was to talk about how companies can work smarter with non-profits in marketing campaigns.

It was a rejuvenating day professionally, as it was great to hear all of them talk candidly (and without PR spin) about their brands, challenges and opportunities.

Emerging Marketing Themes
Two major themes emerged that have the most relevance to USA Swimming. Unlike the companies above we have different budget realities, but it’s still fun to dream sometimes.

  • Personalization –companies have an opportunity to personalize content like never before. We all have favorite products and respond to different offers, so marketers have to cater to that. Here’s a great example shown at the conference for the future of CVS Pharmacy:
  • Local/Geo-Targeted Marketing – the old adage of “all marketing is local” holds true. Companies are creating targeting services that help collate demographic information as well as click behavior and social media behavior to build profiles. It is big brother-ish but crazy cool as a marketer.

Advice for Companies Working with Non-Profits
Below is a summary of some of the tips I shared as part of the conference, while joining the panel with Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York and Naomi Hirabayashi, CMO of DoSomething.org.

  • Expect us to Innovate – companies should expect marketing innovation from non-profits. For example, our SwimToday campaign is bringing together industry partners such as suit manufacturers, retailers, industry non-profits, media and more. It is a great example of how to pool (Get it? sorry!) resources.
  • We Aren’t the NFL – Companies shouldn’t expect us to be the NFL and we shouldn’t pretend to be. In fact, I feel we do a better than those properties at authentically mixing elite events and grassroots, youth development. Companies can leverage that.
  • Be Authentic – non-profits are about stories, inspiration and people. We can tell stories for a company that the company can’t always do by itself.
  • Leverage the Loyalty – Sports marketing is cluttered, so work with non-profits to break through. For example, USA Swimming members are 74% more likely to buy a sponsor’s product if they are a sponsor (according to a 2012 Sponsor Research International – SRi – study conducted by USA Swimming). Brands can’t get that with a :30-second spot on SportsCenter.
  • Dare to be Different – A non-profit relationship shouldn’t be just a matter of slapping your logo on a property and calling it a day. Tap into other resources such as PR, multicultural, employee engagement, etc.
  • Expect us to Perform – Non-profits should be held to ROI and measurement standards. Brands should expect a 2:1 value:investment return on any sports or non-profit partnership.
  • Activate – Build in activation dollars. Don’t call it a sponsorship and treat it like a donation without any activation.
  • Watch the Trends – two trends in particular I see are athletes/individuals doing their own fundraising in an already crowded non-profit and fundraising space. Also, we are seeing a lot of “pink” promotions this time of year, but I think companies will start to differentiate their non-profit relationships more going forward. There seems to be a lot of “me too” promotions currently that aren’t breaking through the clutter.

Please let me know what you think of upcoming trends, tips or advice for non-profit marketers.

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