When the shoe company Vans announced it was designing and selling a line of shoes and clothing accessories featuring cute pictures of kitties and puppies, at first glance, it may not have garnered much attention. After all, the company is known among skaters, surfers and other shoe aficionados for their cool design elements that have made them a leader in footwear worldwide.
But it turns out these designs were about more than stylish looks; they represented a partnership between the footwear company and the ASPCA, with a portion of the company’s profits benefiting the animal protection agency. Once word was out, the shoes and other ASPCA-themed accessories flew off the shelves, leaving many distributors sold out within days. The partnership has obviously been a success, both for Vans and for the ASPCA.
Certainly, Vans isn’t the only company to partner with a charity; lots of companies do it. Even Amazon shares the love, offering specific shopping portals that benefit the charity of your choice.
Partnerships at all levels – even the local level – can do a world of good for the charity as well as the company that sponsors it. If your company hasn’t considered partnering with a local non-profit, it’s an avenue worth exploring. To appeal to the broadest demographics, avoid charities with a strong religious or political component and look instead for middle-of-the-road options like a local pet shelter or scholarship fund. Then craft press releases that emphasize the charity’s good works to gain the most media attention.
Of course, there are those naysayers who may claim that the partnership is nothing more than a publicity grab, and that Vans is capitalizing on people’s warm and fuzzy (and protective) feelings toward abused animals. But the fact is, companies like Vans and Amazon do make a difference with the revenues generated by their sales, and if charities like the ASPCA didn’t feel the partnership with Vans was worthwhile and sincere, it wouldn’t waste its own reputation by embarking on the campaign in the first place.
The bottom line is, if you decide to partner with a charity, whether local or on a larger scale, as long as you’re making the donations you’re claiming to make, you need to rise above any criticism that might come along with the territory. In some cases, it may be honest skepticism; but in others, it may be a case of sour grapes being promoted by your competitors who wish they’d thought of it first.