I don't usually watch a lot of sports, but we were invited to a Super Bowl party this year, so I actually got to watch the big game. Expecting bikini-clad babes, I was touched and inspired by the number of ads that used a cause marketing approach instead. Yes, I saw Kim Kardashian; and no, that's not cause marketing. In case you're not familiar with the term, cause marketing is using your marketing dollars to campaign for making the world a better place or affiliating your business with social good or nonprofit organizations. Basically, it's showing you care about something more than just profits. Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty is a great example of a cause marketing campaign that is still being talked about today for showcasing real women without airbrushed bodies.

Most of us know that advertising during the Super Bowl is one of the most expensive ways to sell a product--this year, each 30-second slot went for about $4.5 million. However, if you don't have millions to spend on advertising, you can still emulate these great ads and use cause marketing to both 1) do good in the world, and 2) be recognized as a company that cares.

Here are some of my favorite cause marketing ads that ran on Sunday during the Super Bowl (click links below to view the ads):

 

  • Always: Always created the ultimate female empowerment ad by reclaiming what it means to run, throw, and fight #LikeAGirl. The ad ended with the line "Let's make #likeagirl mean amazing things." (This was my personal favorite and reminded me of this adorable video about why real men don't hit women that was circulating around Facebook for a while.)
  • Dodge: Rather than putting oiled-up girls in bikinis on the hoods of its cars, Dodge celebrated the wisdom of old age in its ad. With ageism an all-too-often socially acceptable form of discrimination, Dodge turned that around with the message that great wisdom comes with experience.
  • Toyota: This ad showcased Amy Purdy, a professional snowboarder, reality-TV star, and model who has prosthetic legs, but is highly active: snowboarding, running, ballroom dancing, and more. This showed the difference between "disabled" and differently abled.
  • Microsoft: Microsoft ran two ads showcasing how its technology has helped people. Both are fine examples of cause marketing. One was about a little boy with prosthetic legs, and the other was about a woman who had a bus fitted with computers to enhance children's learning by providing technology.
  • Coca-Cola: The ad indirectly addresses cyberbullying. The commercial is kind of ridiculous, but could make the audience think twice about cyberbullying--maybe. I kind of prefer this old one.

So how can you include cause marketing in your marketing strategy? (Hint: It's also good for employee morale.)

  1. Start by researching local, national, or international nonprofits whose visions/missions align with yours. Keep in mind that any charity you choose to publicly support is a reflection of your brand, so make sure it aligns with your business values as well as your personal ones.
  1. Partner and/or volunteer with them. Local charities/causes are much easier to volunteer for, but some larger causes may have local off-shoots where your company could participate. For example, Relay for Life is a national organization that raises money for cancer research, but there are often local Relay for Life teams that your company could support. Your company could also create its own team. (This type of activity is a great team building exercise for your staff.)
  1. Donate a portion of your profits to the cause (i.e., for each widget purchased, we will donate $10). This is an easy way to give back, and it lets your customers know that by buying a particular item, they are giving back as well. (Check out Charity Navigator to find out more about where your money is going when you donate to a particular charity.)
  1. Distribute press releases about your company's partnerships with nonprofits of your choice. This type of publicity benefits everyone involved. It shows that your company is giving back to the community (or a specific cause), and it helps the nonprofit organization raise awareness about its particular issue--it's a win-win.

Not having millions of dollars to spend on advertising doesn't mean you can't use the latest and greatest marketing styles. Partnering with a charity or cause is an easy way to connect with your community and show your customers you care about more than just profits. And you know what? It makes you feel good, so do as Coke tells us and #MakeItHappy.

Find this useful? If so, sign up for Ariana's bimonthly update for more articles to keep your mojo flowing!

Published on: Feb 4, 2015
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.