In the lead up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar expect to see an increase in cause-related or higher purpose marketing. Social and corporate responsibility is the topic du jour and you shouldn’t expect it to go anywhere any time soon in soccer.
From Nike, adidas, Volkswagen, and beyond, brands are supporting social causes because it helps appeal to a greater or higher purpose – an important consideration when relating to consumers who care deeply about things like sustainability and the greater good of their communities.
Why cause marketing?
In the eyes of many of today’s consumers, it’s not just enough for a brand to express a value or mission statement. Brands should also find a cause that furthers the values and interests of its consumers, employees, and investors.
The belief is that by putting goodwill at the core of your brand and calculating success by helping others, the sincerity helps build a stronger image among consumers and, in effect, boosts loyalty and sales.
Whether or not it should be the responsibility of brands to make the world a better place is up for debate; however, there’s no denying a brand illustrating their commitment to furthering social causes and the betterment of society is a good thing in the all-important eyes of a majority of consumers.
For those interested in cause marketing, you can boil benefits down to a few things:
- Corporate image: improve standing among consumers who say do your part
- Corporate responsibility: contributing to societal goals of activism and awareness
- Brand loyalty: consumers are loyal to brands that take stands or get involved
- Employee moral: boost employees by showing you care about the community
Additionally, cause marketing is something consumers want to see. According to our most recent soccer fan study – to be released in Q1 of this year – 60% of soccer fans agree that soccer organizations have a responsibility to make the world a better place. In other words, the majority of fans think the soccer industry, from youth clubs to professional clubs and charities to brands, have a role to play in societal change.
In what should come as no surprise, 67% of Millennials, who make up nearly half of all soccer fans in the U.S., agree that soccer organizations have this responsibility.
When you consider this, brand campaigns built around things like philanthropy, equality, environmentalism, and awareness are all topics around which consumers, particularly younger consumers, will rally. But in order to be truly effective, your cause marketing campaign can’t ring hollow – it must be impactful, show direct cause and effect, and, in a perfect world, have longevity.
Soccer brands using cause marketing
What brands in the soccer industry are using cause marketing to their benefit? The good news is there are plenty of examples across the soccer industry. Here are a few examples spanning technology, grassroots marketing, fashion, and beyond to help get you thinking about your next cause marketing campaign.
Volkswagen’s CHAMP provides unique opportunity
CHAMP is a telepresence robot created by Volkswagen to provide members of the U.S. Soccer community easier access to the teams and players they love. It was born from the idea of embracing an initiative that supports the greater good of the fans by providing a memorable experience to children facing challenging circumstances or hardships that don’t allow them to attend games in person. Since its creation, CHAMP has helped several children, including Luna Perrone who battles Ewing’s Sarcoma, meet U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Team players through the player honoree program.
adidas joins Common Goal
In 2021, adidas announced a long-term partnership with Common Goal, an organization with whom contributors donate 1% of total earnings to be allocated to high-impact NGOs who use the power of soccer to tackle global issues. Through 2023, adidas will contribute 1% of its global net sales from soccer to Common Goal. Started in 2017, Common Goal has since received over $3 million in pledges from more than 200 soccer players, managers, and more. Common Goal and adidas are working together to fight racism and discrimination, as well as promote gender equality, mental well-being, and LGBTQ+ inclusion.
Southern New Hampshire University’s KickStart Campaign
In 2016, we helped SNHU create a campaign, called Kickstart, to raise money for U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success program. KickStart allowed fans to juggle a soccer ball and for every juggle, $1 was donated to Soccer for Success. We traveled everywhere from MLS All-Star Week in San Jose to various youth tournaments across the country to raise $100,000 via fan juggles.
MLS partners with Parley for the Oceans
Following the lead of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in 2016, to help raise awareness and inspire action around the harmful impact of ocean pollution, MLS partnered with Parley for the Oceans in 2017. Since then, all MLS teams have worn limited-edition Parley jerseys made from upcycled plastic waste found on remote islands, shorelines, and coastal communities.
Nike laces up to save lives
In 2010, Nike introduced a global campaign to raise money for the fight against AIDS/HIV in Africa. The campaign featured red laces that players and fans could buy with one hundred percent of the profits being split between The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as soccer-based community initiatives that deliver educational and on-the-ground support to the AIDS fight. Advertising featured many top Nike athletes at the time, including Didier Drogba and Clint Dempsey, as well as non-soccer players Maria Sharapova and the late Kobe Bryant. The campaign was called, Lace up. Save lives.
Angel City donates to local LGBT community
As Angel City worked to make an impact in the Los Angeles community before ever playing a game, the team announced it would donate 10% of all revenues from sponsorship deals to local community efforts in an attempt to be a vehicle for lasting change. During Pride month in 2021, Heineken worked with Angel City to donate funds to Los Angeles LGBT Center. The team donated its 10% of the Heineken sponsorship deal to the center with additional funds coming via Pride merchandise collection. Heineken matched Angel City’s contributions, as well.