One truth that has become evident in today’s environment is that we all can and should be doing more as an industry. When done right, cause marketing is a great way for brands to carry out their commitment to positively affecting society while deeply and genuinely connecting with all of their most important stakeholders. We are currently facing the perfect storm for cause marketing. Because sports already live deep in the hearts of many passionate consumers, sports properties provide great platforms on which brands can showcase their cause marketing efforts and, ultimately, build rich, meaningful, and lasting connections. This blog attempts to challenge thinking and provide deeper insights to motivate action from the reader within their organization.

Why Cause Marketing: Brands in the current climate cannot continue their marketing efforts in a business-as-usual manner. Above promoting products/services, brands now have to show who they are, what they believe in, and how they plan to make the world a better place. Connecting to consumers in an authentic way is more important now than ever before, and consumers have shown they are willing to align their wallets with brands that reflect their values.

Why Right Now: During the last recession there was a 2.5X increase in market share for aggressive ad spenders. Brands need to seize the moment and prove their dedication to communities by aligning with consumer passion points and creating meaningful initiatives that strengthen their commitment to their loyal customers and those struggling. 

Why Sports: Aligning with passion points work. The halo effect is real. Fans aware of major partnerships are 3x more likely to purchase and 2x more likely to recommend a product or service. You do not get KPI returns like that on other traditional marketing mediums, which is why sponsorship is a $24B industry with a 4.4% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) over the past 10 years.

52% of Americans consider themselves fans of at least one of the top 5 leagues. Of this grouping of 130 million+ sports fans, they are 13% more likely to buy brands that reflect their values and 17% more likely to stay loyal to brands they like. Certain leagues show even larger over-indexes in CSR (corporate social responsibility) attitudes, such as MLS whose fans are 26% more likely to support charities/good causes, and 41% more likely to believe it is important for brands to support charities/good causes.

Teams are struggling in the post-make-good-palooza that initiated at the beginning of the pandemic and are looking for new ways to integrate partners and reasons for new partners to come on board. Too many partnership conversations are looking at the minutia of assets delivered, and not enough are brainstorming relevant large-scale community integrations for the upcoming seasons. It will take creativity and flexibility on both parties, but the opportunity to be remembered as part of the initiative that brought significant change to communities rebuilding in their toughest times is too good to pass up. Partnerships are going to have to adopt non-traditional value drivers, and cause marketing should be the #1 topic on that list.  As we have seen lately, some of the major deals that are getting done have significant ties to cause marketing or CSR:  Climate Pledge Arena, Ball Arena, Nationwide jersey w/ Crew, etc. 

What Works: When the pandemic first broke out, we saw some drastic initiatives taken by a few major brands in the United States to help facilitate the production and transportation of PPE (personal protective equipment). These efforts were widely applauded and were great examples to show who they are, what they believe in, and how they plan to make the world a better place. We foresee major opportunities for the next wave of cause marketing in the economic recovery in communities that will take years to fully recover. These are the fanbases of your local team, and the cause-oriented actions taken by brands in these areas will be immensely impactful. A lot of very highly regarded cause marketing initiatives are reactive to events and injustices. It is important for both teams and brands to be prepared to prove core beliefs and have procedures in place to take action.

Effect on the Bottom Line: Is there a business argument to cause marketing or is it on par with a corporate donation? Both teams and brands will have to get final approval from c-suite executives focused on bottom line, especially with the current economic conditions. Above potentially improving the lives of those in your community, cause marketing has legitimate business benefits that all brands strive for. The insights below should be part of your leave-behind after pitching your next initiative.


Knowing we all can and should be doing more, there has never been a more opportune time to materialize your plans for your organization. I challenge you to send the ideas you have had to your boss, set up a department brainstorm, reach out to your network that has activated successfully, and continue to seek more knowledge about cause marketing, because it just might be the opportunity that defines your impact on the industry and your community.