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STRATEGY

Cause-Related Marketing: An Eye for Free Publicity

A quick look at the benefits of one company's involvement with a community-outreach program.
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Thomas Whatley, CEO of American Ophthalmic, in Winter Park, Fla., knows that cause-related marketing works best when companies make a commitment to a local cause. For example, he partners with a nearby chapter of Meals on Wheels to serve the elderly. The chain of ophthalmic clinics and surgery centers gives free eye screenings and hands out literature at the nonprofit's senior centers.

American Ophthalmic employees also deliver dinner to the homebound; they participate in health fairs, fund-raisers, and food drives run by the nonprofit, too. "We work well together," says Ellen Campbell of the Manatee, Fla., Meals on Wheels, "and as funding becomes limited this kind of partnering is especially beneficial for the elderly."

During visits to Meals on Wheels centers, American Ophthalmic's certified technicians check vision, and its doctors make presentations about the aging eye. Since screenings are typically free in the industry, the company makes money when people sign up for full exams or require surgery. Whatley estimates that his various community-outreach programs (which also include elementary school visits) bring in about 25% of his sales, which reached $21.5 million in 1994.

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