I’m putting it on record: This whole sponsorship/CSR thing is getting out of hand.
Over and over, I see sponsors writing sponsorship cheques to charities and community organisations and calling it one of two things:
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Community engagement
Not to put too fine a point on it, but wrong and wrong.
First off, Corporate Social Responsibility is built on the premise of making money in an ethical and sustainable way. Writing cheques – even big cheques – to charitable or community organisations does not “tick the CSR box”. The only type of sponsorship that has anything to do with CSR are sponsorships that include using the expertise or resources of that charity to make real changes in the way the company does business. An example would be an environmental charity carrying out an audit on business practices and (here’s the important bit) the company committing to make the recommended changes.
As far as community engagement goes, since when does writing a cheque to a local charity “engage the community”? It benefits the community, sure, but it doesn’t “engage” them. If a company wants to really engage the community, you have to listen to the community, include the community, and reflect the community. Sponsoring community organisations can provide a platform for doing those things, but just writing the cheque and issuing a press release is not engagement.
I am all for cause sponsorship. It is an incredibly powerful marketing tool, while making a real difference in the community. But just like every other kind of sponsorship, it needs to be leveraged by the sponsor in order to get a return. Spending sponsorship money and not leveraging it is a waste.
The problem is that calling sponsorship “CSR” or “community engagement” is not only inaccurate, it tends to make sponsors think that their job is done when they spend the money, and that leverage isn’t necessary. Leverage is important. It is the only way you will change people’s perceptions or behaviours around your brand. If you spend the money, you need to work the investment.
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