Beer and the Bay: A Cause Marketing Success Story
Cause marketing has been around for decades, but a clear formula for success is elusive. Often, conflicting goals and differing expectations between nonprofits and their for-profit partners lead to frustration and disappointment. These partnerships take effort—how can nonprofits know the time they invest will pay off? Through an exciting project my organization undertook this year, we learned a few key lessons that can help others launch a successful partnership.
The Buzzards Bay Coalition is an environmental nonprofit with more than 8,000 members keenly focused on protecting clean water in Southeastern Massachusetts. Last winter we approached our local micro-brewery, Buzzards Bay Brewing, about producing a limited-edition beer to support our organization. Ultimately, these conversations led to the launch of Sow & Pigs Ale—a summer beer named for a reef at the entrance to Buzzards Bay. Over the summer, Sow & Pigs Ale raised thousands of dollars for the coalition and introduced many new people to our cause. Besides the obvious fact that we share a name, what made this partnership so successful? We have determined there were four key factors:
- We chose the right partner. We identified a partner aligned with our core values—one we were proud to stand with and have represent our brand. The brewery is a leader in its community on sustainability, and it has a strong connection with local waterways. We didn’t need to convince the owners to embrace our cause.
- We built a win-win partnership. Nonprofits often leave it to the for-profit company to do most of the work, not considering what they can offer to build the partnership. If each partner thinks about what assets he or she can contribute, both can prosper. We had strong relationships with local restaurants that did not serve the brewery’s beer, so we worked to open those doors and get a new outlet for them. We also offered up our PR expertise to develop a marketing and social media plan, resulting in coverage in The Boston Globe and other publications. These efforts helped the brewery increase sales and develop business outside of our partnership.
- We invested in the long-term. Although we were developing a limited-edition beer, we went into the partnership thinking about how to build a multi-year relationship. We ensured that the business deal made good business sense for the brewery and for us. We put our marketing muscle into developing the Sow & Pigs brand and encouraging our membership to try the beer. Because of the positive marketplace response, the brewery has now agreed to make Sow & Pigs Ale its annual summer brew. This year’s efforts will pay dividends in coming years.
- We had fun. We knew that a beer partnership would provide opportunities for creativity and fun, and we went with it! From the development of cool graphic T-shirts, to a beer and oysters launch event at the brewery, to the creation of a unique #beersavesbay hashtag, we unleashed our inner beer-lover and embraced the partnership.
When contemplating cause marketing, remember these tips—and remember to be transparent with donors and supporters about these relationships—and you’ll set your organization up for a successful partnership.
Marc Bellanger is vice president of development for the Buzzards Bay Coalition, an environmental nonprofit based in New Bedford, Mass. For the last two years he has led the organization’s fundraising activities, including managing its signature peer-to-peer sporting events. Prior to joining the Buzzards Bay Coalition, Marc had a 15-year career in banking and management consulting. He has a BS from Georgetown University an MBA from Babson College. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Samaritans Inc., a Boston-based nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention.