By Liam Gaskin

When the United Nations lead a campaign,  most  Governments all over the World buy into that initiative. And when President Bill Clinton at a dinner in Dublin urges business and individuals to get involved it’s time to pay attention.

The 1% Difference campaign was washing over me a little until I heard Bill Clinton speak so passionately at the dinner in Dublin. So I did a little research and reached a conclusion – Irish companies have not seen the potential benefit for their business and the community of buying into  the 1% initiative. Perhaps it is because some commentators refer to it as Corporate Philanthropy and this is, in today’s reality, dirty words in many Boardrooms. Ask an FC to consider Corporate Philanthropy and you can call the cardiac ambulance for him and a shrink for you as Philanthropy suggests giving with no return.

But if we look at it differently, call it something else that we in marketing clearly understand, Sponsorship and analyse the benefits under Brand, Corporate reputation, Staff moral and Community you might find it is well worth doing.

Sponsorship, that’s really all it is after all and the 1% campaign should offer encouragement to brands or companies who have either cut out sponsorship or have never done it to get involved. There are national and local organisations that could really benefit from the sponsorship of a brand or company and I don’t just mean financial. A major brand brings credibility to the work they are doing, grows their profile through PR and marketing communications and energises their people. All of this enhances the brand’s reputation.

“Brand x are working to make a 1% difference to The Irish Heart Foundation:” Although this is just an example it demonstrates a very powerful message to the consumer and, thanks to the  substantial advertising spend, everyone has an understanding of 1% so it immediately says this brand is giving something back.

Corporate reputation: There are many companies and industry bodies in this day and age who could really benefit from enhancing their corporate reputation. So, to support a charity, community or national programme would be a great start. All research over the years demonstrates a greater fondness and affinity from consumers for companies who “give something back” and again research shows consumers really do give those companies more consideration when it come to the purchasing decision.

Staff morale: the best sponsorships I have worked on not only had consumer buy-in but also staff buy-in.  The sponsorship by Irish Pride Bakeries of Hospice Sunflower Days saw their staff get involved in fundraising by running 5 a side soccer games, community walks and much more. When staff supports a sponsorship programme it can bring huge benefits to a company including enhanced loyalty, commitment and pride. And if the staff play a part in choosing the sponsorship, the corporate returns are even greater.

Our community our customers: we all live work and derive our living whilst immersed in all varieties of communities. Our brands and services are bought by people and sometimes we forget that fact. Our consumers are not insensitive to the tough realities of living in Ireland at the moment and it is not good enough for a brand to expect an immediate positive response solely from pure marketing communications, price and quality of the product or service. It is important to touch our consumers in different and occasionally emotional ways and the 1% initiative not only presents us with that opportunity but allows us to serve the community we sell in and enhance our brand or service across a raft of important touch points which all help sell products.

1% is not literal: No one expects all companies to invest 1% of its income but it is a call to action to consider sponsoring charities or causes that need the support so don’t be put off by the title. However to do nothing is a missed opportunity for both your brand and your community.

A good thing: Let’s be clear, if a company can benefit from participating in the 1% initiative that is a really good thing. If a business derives benefits from assisting a charity or organisation then it’s a win, win and will encourage further cooperation for mutual benefit.

Our commitment: If you want to investigate the possibilities from the 1% Difference for your brand I will provide the first five companies who contact me at  the benefit of my expertise FOC in a two hour consultation to evaluate the opportunities for your brand or company.  That will be my contribution to 1%.

Liam Gaskin is a partner at The Concept Partnership, specialists in sponsorship negotiation and marketing communications.

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