Community involvement and sponsorship are good for the community, but it’s also good for your brand. Studies show that doing good in our communities makes us happier and healthier. In addition to the individual benefits, there are also extrinsic benefits for businesses who choose to get involved and make a difference.
The ways in which your brand gets involved in a goodwill project should be unique and brand focused. The only limitation is your imagination. Here are a few creative examples of how the beverage alcohol industry is doing good things in local communities:
Steam Whistle’s Green Hot Rod
Steam Whistle promotes their dedication to environmentalism with their vintage hot rod that is driven by 100% green electricity. The hot rod is more than a publicity stunt. It helps the brand promote their values and their zero carbon emission brewery. “We made the conscious choice in 2007 to partner with Bullfrog Power with a goal to power our brewery with zero carbon emissions,” their website explains. “Bullfrog Power supplies us with only clean, renewable electricity from wind and low-impact hydro generators that meet or exceed the federal government’s standard for renewable electricity.”
City Winery’s Barrels for Benefit
Based in New York City, City Winery gives away approximately 10 per cent of the wine they produce annually to charities for use at gala functions, or as silent auction items. City Winery also provides their facilities for charities to use at a discounted rate.
In addition to their commitment to help their local community, the winery also runs a Barrels for Benefit program in which investors and barrel owners can donate, at no cost to themselves, to an organization of their choice. The non-profit organization then arranges for a celebrity, chef, musician or other key spokesperson to endorse a barrel of wine and sign custom wine labels. 20 cases of wine are then sold by the charity, with the custom label attached. Lewis Black is a well-known celebrity who used the Barrels for Benefit service to support the 52nd Street Project.
Tinhorn Creek Winery
Tinhorn Creek Winery has a charitable giving program which supports The Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada. When looking for a partner, they wanted a group that best aligned with their brand’s core values. For Tinhorn Creek, The Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada met their criteria of being Canadian, child focused and community based.
Although their winery receives daily requests for sponsorship opportunities and strategic partnerships (as do many brands in the beverage alcohol industry), this criterion helped them focus their goodwill project on one particular charity in which they believe they can make a difference.
Make strategic choices
With so many different ways to get involved it’s important that your brand develops a strategy that can help you maximize your potential return as well as the positive impact you can have on your community. To do this, you’ll need to:
- Choose the right sponsorships, partnerships or charities to support
- Let customers know how you give back and why
- Communicate events and achievements with local media
- Showcase your community partnerships on your website
- Track your results including subjective indicators like brand awareness and loyalty
What’s in it for Your Brand?
Kindness, generosity and strong values may drive the above mentioned brands to get involved in the community in a positive way, but the relationship with the groups they partner with creates a win-win opportunity. Here are 5 ways community involvement and sponsorship help companies like these improve their brand and bottom line:
1. Improve public relations, brand reputation and brand awareness
Community involvement and sponsorship opportunities are one of the easiest ways for companies to generate positive public relations. “Sponsorship can generate substantial publicity for a relatively small investment,” says Drew Hendricks, a writer for Inc. “It’s like using the strength, funds and audiences of two organizations to develop your product and build your brand awareness.”
Small and medium sized businesses in particular can benefit from the brand awareness that community involvement and sponsorship generate. “When your brand is involved in the community it is a great way to increase awareness of your business,” says Ally Scott, of Pulse Marketing. “Not only do you gain awareness while you are participating, but you can also use the experience as a great talking point for social media, traditional media, or a blog post before and after the event. When you’re getting involved in your community, take photos to help you remember the moment and be able to share it with others later,” she advises.
You can make a difference in your community no matter the size of your brand, which is reason enough to consider it. However, it will also fortify public relations, generate brand awareness and strengthen your brand’s reputation.
2. Develop a loyal customer base
In any business customer loyalty is critical, but in the beverage alcohol industry, where competition is stiff, it’s truly pivotal. Sponsorship and other community initiatives help brands earn consumer trust, and eventually loyalty. “When you sponsor an event, community group or cause that your prospects like – they are more likely to like you. And they are more likely to trust those that they like,” says marketing specialist George Torok. “Trust makes it easier for prospects to buy from you. You don’t need to say a thing about yourself. By sponsoring you are indirectly saying that you support the cause.”
3. Connect with community members to generate leads
Whether you’re providing free alcohol at a gala event, partnering with a local charity or promoting environmentalism, when people see your brand associated with a good cause you not only remain top-of-mind, you also have an opportunity to develop relationships with potential customers and brand advocates whose beliefs align with your own.
4. Differentiate yourself from your competition
The beverage alcohol industry is oversaturated and highly competitive and it is becoming increasingly difficult for one brand to differentiate itself from the rest. For many brands, community involvement becomes the differentiating factor. “Your competitors’ products and/or services may be just as great as yours, but if your business shows an ethical commitment to the community as a whole, you can bet potential customers will take that into consideration,” Hendricks says.
When you support a good cause you not only receive advertising, but you also “create positive publicity that encourages potential customers to choose your business over not-so-generous competitors,” says Hendricks. By getting involved in the community you differentiate your brand from the competition, which may be enough to give you an edge in a competitive marketplace.
5. Increase employee happiness and retention
It’s a good idea to get your employees to participate in your community initiatives. “Giving employees an avenue to give back is important to morale and builds a collaborative and inspired team,” reports Lindsay Lavine, a writer for Entrepreneur. Not only will your employees do a better job when they love what they’re doing, but giving back to the community and volunteering “provides leadership opportunities for employees, which leads to increased staff performance and fulfillment and, ultimately, increased productivity and sales.”
Providing employees with positive community experiences helps increase job satisfaction and retention as well. “Companies that encourage community involvement distinguish themselves from their competitors, and see many benefits, including loyal customers and happier employees,” says Lavine.
Providing volunteer opportunities within the community is a great way to strengthen your company’s team. “When your employees work together for a cause, it will help them form more valuable relationships outside of the office [which is] good for overall workplace morale,” says Scott, who adds that “their commitment and thoughts toward the company will strengthen as they see the brand doing great things for the community”.
When you give employees opportunities to make a difference in the community it’s not just your brand and the community that benefit. Your employees will be happier and your team will be strengthened, great reasons to get involved.
Ultimately, the business benefits that community involvement and sponsorship provide make it a worthy addition to your marketing mix. However, you need to keep in mind that, like any relationship, community goodwill is a seed you plant, nurture, and grow. Only after you have invested the time will you truly see the benefits for your community and brand.