Jan 10, 2011 at 03:03 PM
written by Brent Barootes, Partnership Group

Are Sponsorships About the Cash? Or the Cause?

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Here’s a question: Is it about the cash or the cause? Where do we draw the line?

Lancet, one of the world’s most influential medical journals, accused UNICEF Canada of selling out its values by allowing candy giant Cadbury to use its logo to sell Halloween candy. UNICEF Canada received $500,000 from Cadbury Adams Canada Inc. over a three-year period for construction of schools in Africa in exchange for allowing the company to plaster the iconic – and valuable – UNICEF logo on millions of product packages each year.

The CIBC has its name all over the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Run for the Cure. RONA Bike for MS. Future Shop rooms in high schools. Sure, some charities do not accept money from companies that produce harmful products. Cancer organizations do not accept money from cigarette companies or, for the most part, from tanning salons. But this is candy, Halloween and UNICEF. They go hand in hand.

Lancet claims that Cadbury is contributing to obesity. Therefore, it is sinful for UNICEF to associate itself with a candy company. The fact that UNICEF has been associated with Halloween for generations seems moot in the eyes of these academics. To me, Halloween is about candy and costumes. Should we change the sacred tradition because some parents cannot control their children’s candy intake?

What about the half million dollars-worth of schools constructed in Africa through this sponsorship? Should it be forgone? Perhaps more doctors or publications such as Lancet should contribute a half million dollars to UNICEF, with no strings attached. Then, UNICEF could do its work and Cadbury could give its $500,000 to CTV or Global TV for ads to promote sales.

We all know that sponsorship is NOT philanthropy. It is a business transaction. UNICEF knows full well that, by letting Cadbury (or anyone else) use its logo, there will be an affinity for buying that product over another. It creates an advantage for Cadbury over Nestle or whomever else. Does it really make someone buy 10 times more candy? I don’t think so.

So, is it right or wrong? Keep in mind that we are talking about sponsorship here. No one said that Cadbury was in this to help UNICEF (though it did). They were into it to sell more chocolate bars. If we can’t get past that, then we have a problem. The question in my mind is “What is the realistic market value of the association of using the UNICEF brand?” Is it worth $500,000 over three years? If it is worth more (which I suspect it is), then Cadbury got a great deal, but that isn’t Cadbury’s fault. This is why I continue to emphasize the importance of properties such as UNICEF, CARE and others (from arts organizations to member associations) knowing the value of their assets and selling them for nothing less.

Our work with World Vision Canada established the value of many of their assets and what they can be sold for. I am not sure UNICEF went this route. I figure they went the route that so many others go… “Oh my gosh! You’re offering us a half million dollars? We’ll take it!” When they should have stepped back and had the brand and aligned assets valued by a professional firm such as the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists™ or others in Canada. The question in my mind is not about “cause or cash.” The real question is “Did I get the true value of the brand or asset I sold…or did I sell it too cheap?”

Brent Barootes is President of Calgary-based, Partnership Group.

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