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Dick’s Sporting Goods and Cause Marketing: Will It Work?

Dick’s Sporting Goods and Cause Marketing: Will It Work?

Dick’s Sporting Goods announced at the SXSW Interactive festival that the brand is making a significant investment in an initiative called Sports Matter to generate awareness and crowdsource funds for youth athletics programs. The campaign has been in the works for more than a year and will incorporate commercials, social media, and a film that will be shown on ESPN2. But will this project help their brand? Non-profit and for-profit partnerships are not new tactics for advertisers; many brands have created campaigns to raise money for worthy causes. In fact, cause marketing can be extremely successful – provided the campaign’s messaging connects closely to the brand’s identity. The Sports Matter omnichannel campaign’s commercials profile three students, each finding comfort, purpose, and security in sports despite life’s hardships. Additionally, the documentary We Could Be King features two Philadelphia high school teams forced to merge due to budget cuts. Social media will also be a key component of the campaign. Dick’s has the platforms, but do they have the correct messaging? Dick’s Sporting Goods compares their initiative to Save the Music, a longtime effort led by VH1 to provide musical instruments and instruction to public school students in response to cuts to arts programs. VH1 was an appropriate brand to support and promote this cause and Dick’s will have the same relevance for a sports-focused initiative. As with Save the Music, programs that are in it for the long haul are poised to deliver more value for the sponsoring brand than those designed for short-term gain. As the largest U.S. retailer of sporting equipment, Dick’s is well-positioned to deliver a campaign that resonates with consumers who are passionate about athletics. The challenge for many cause marketing campaigns is to balance the multiple messages that are required for campaign success. This includes communicating the emotional appeal behind the cause (which can be engaging but is often not tied to the sponsoring company), the Dick’s brand, and the program call to action. Because Dick’s shoppers care about sports, they should also care that the retailer is doing what it can to keep alive the country’s rich tradition of youth athletics. If Dick’s can clearly communicate this to message to consumers, it may find that doing the right thing can also benefit the bottom...

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