That’s not like selling cigarettes or yogurt. And yet, at the same time, partnerships with companies in the private sector have been a cornerstone of our efforts. My work with Levi’s during the “Staying Alive” concert series gave me my first real experience with cause-related marketing. In the PSAs, the artists wore Levi’s clothes; the spots carried the Levi’s brand. It was subtle, but it made people think, “Levi’s cares about this issue. It’s a good company. I’m going to buy its jeans.”
The hidden potential of cause-related marketing lies in combining the needs of local cultures with the global reach of mainstream companies. Procter & Gamble, for example, has a water purification product called PUR (developed with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention); a couple of drops can clean 10 gallons of water. The company is donating it and PSI is marketing it in places where clean water is needed. We can get it into the hands of the people who need it most, which P&G wasn’t able to do on its own. Similarly, Coca-Cola wanted to get involved in AIDS prevention, but was concerned about using YouthAIDS branding on its products. So we suggested sharing the company’s distribution system. Coca-Cola has trucks going to villages in 200 countries all over the world. Why not tap into that transportation system and deliver condoms?
Probably the best example is Aldo Shoes. Its participation started in early 2005 when Robert Hoppenheim, Aldo’s general manager, saw a magazine photo of actress Kristin Davis from Sex and the City wearing a YouthAIDS T-shirt. Aldo Shoes had never mentioned its 20 years of AIDS prevention efforts in its marketing. Mr. Hoppenheim got in touch with us, and we started brainstorming together. The result was “Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil.” It benefits young people through education; it provides publicity for celebrities; and, of course, it benefits Aldo in the form of increased sales and customer goodwill.
We are now rounding out the second phase of our campaign. Aldo continues to sell an average of 20,000 empowerment tags per week, and the campaign has raised more than $2.5 million for YouthAIDS thus far. It has reached 20-plus countries and has accounted for more than 1.5 billion editorial impressions. And Aldo’s increased sales and brand recognition are such that one could say the company’s primary product is no longer a shoe, it is an idea: the combination of being healthy and being cool.
This campaign, in short, is a tribute to the power that companies gain when they embark on cause-related marketing. They increase their sales. They change themselves. They change their customers. And they change the world.
Reprint No. 06401
Kate Roberts (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a former marketing executive and the founder and director of YouthAIDS (www.youthaids.org), an education and prevention initiative of PSI (Population Services International).