Donating your product or service to charity events can be an inexpensive, effective way to get it sampled by the public. But if you're looking for more than a sales spike from one-shot giveaways, why not link your marketing strategy with that of a compatible nonprofit organization? You can develop a loyal customer base using long-term but very affordable campaigns.

Here's the anatomy of one alliance that cost very little but has paid big dividends to both parties.

The company: Razcal Corp., of Wayland, Mass., with about $2 million in sales. Founded in 1988, Razcal makes and sells a raspberry-lime soda for the teen market.

The marketing challenge: Razcal needed to be more clearly and positively identified with and by its target market.

The cause: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Not only does MADD target teens, it also addresses the issue of beverage consumption. It reaches teens within the school setting, providing Razcal with a captive audience in an environment free from the advertising clutter of competitors.

The alliance: For years MADD had tried to get schools to participate in a poster contest with an anti-drinking theme, but few schools signed up. Razcal offered to pay for and execute a slick direct-mail campaign for the poster contest, which went to 4,000 high schools in New England. Three thousand students representing about 500 schools participated in the contest. Razcal provided prizes for the winners, as well as music and plenty of soda for sock hops at which the winners were paid tribute.

The cost: The mailers to school principals cost Razcal $4 each. Kits for holding poster contests and sock hops cost Razcal about $100 each. That paid for T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and other prizes for the winners, as well as drink cups, promotional posters, and raffle tickets for more Razcal, given away as prizes. About 100,000 cans of soda were given away. Total cost to Razcal (excluding soda): $25,000.

The payback: Razcal sales doubled from 250,000 cases in 1989 to 500,000 in 1990. Razcal's presence was felt in schools from January to March, thanks to the poster contest. In areas where schools joined the campaign, sales doubled and even tripled for the entire year. In addition, supermarkets waived slotting fees and even provided point-of-purchase displays to ally themselves with the MADD-Razcal antidrinking effort.

-- Teri Lammers

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