Sep 17, 2009 at 03:44 PM
written by Joe Waters

Rewards of Cause Marketing are Absolut

Renata von Tscharner, President of The Charles River Conservancy (CRC), isn’t sure why Absolut chose her organization to receive the charitable windfall from its new Absolut Boston Vodka. But she’s thrilled they did.

Under the agreement, CRC will receive a $50,000 gift from Absolut that the Boston-based environmental group will use for programs that are generally difficult to fund. “Advocacy work is one area,” said Renata, “and volunteer programs that help repair and beautify the parklands around the Charles River.”

For an organization with an annual budget of $450,000, Renata said the Absolut gift can be described as nothing less than “huge.”

But there’s more.

Absolut Vodka created a free-standing Wall of Pride to celebrate the launch of the new flavor. The city’s most beloved personalities memorialized their favorite Boston moments on the wall – iconic sports figures, historic monuments, dining and more.

These tiles were on display through September 4th in front of the Prudential Center. That same day an ebay auction of the items closed and the proceeds were given to CRC. (My favorite tile is by Red Sox great Carlton Fisk.)

CRC has also announced that Horizon Beverage, the Avon-based distributor of Absolut, will also make a gift to the group. They too are donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Absolut Boston, which will add $30,000 to the total.

But even with the gift from Horizon Beverage, not everyone originally toasted the Absolut/CRC partnership. As stewards of state land, the Conservancy could not offer Absolutany cross-promotional opportunities along The Charles. CRC board members were also concerned that partnering with the distiller wasn’t the best image for a nonprofit committed to promoting active, healthy lifestyles and family activities along the banks of The Charles.

CRC’s ultimate decision to accept the money may have been influenced by Absolut’s two previous “city” vodkas, New Orleans and Los Angeles. The former was especially successful, raising $2 million for charities supporting Katrina relief. The Los Angeles Edition raised $250,000 for Green Way LA and demonstrated Absolut’s commitment to green causes.

Let’s face it: a partnership with Absolut made sense for the CRC on a lot of levels, and besides using the CRC name, they weren’t asking for much in return. The CRC was smart not to let the opportunity just drift downstream.

Has this taste of cause marketing whetted the CRC’s appetite for more. “I’m not sure,” Renata said. She explained that she’s not a marketer and by is originally from Switzerland so this is all very new to her. Then she asked me: “Would the Charles River Conservancy be a good a good candidate for other cause marketing programs?”

I told her I thought it would. Environmental causes are very popular right now. And the CRC has an active, health-conscious, environmentally-friendly message that would resonate with the adventure retailers of the world. While they are constrained by their geography (The Charles River is well known within Route 128 in Massachusetts, but I’m not sure of its marketability beyond that), they could be a good local player in cause marketing.

It’s like swimming in The Charles, which hasn’t been allowed in years because of pollution and bacteria, but has improved so much over the past few years that it may resume soon. The water is never perfect for cause marketing, but the CRC has a great first program with Absolut to buoy them. They also have the potential to be a strong swimmer. The time is right for a dip.

Joe Waters is currently the Director of Cause Marketing for Boston Medical Center, an avid blogger and a rabid Boston Red Sox fan. Joe can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter at @joewaters and be sure to check out all of his related posts.