Cause marketing seems to be pretty noticeable at the moment.

Though cause marketing has been around for about 50 years, the internet has undoubtedly revolutionised charitable giving and brand involvement.

The stats don’t lie:

  • Cause sponsorship is predicted to reach $2bn in 2016, a 3.7% increase on 2015, according to an IEG report.
  • A 2014 Nielsen study found that ‘42% of North American shoppers would pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact’.
  • A Cone Communications CSR study found ‘91% of global consumers expect companies to do more than make a profit, but also operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues.’

The reason for this growth is perhaps two-fold; greater brand transparency and customer empowerment has led to companies revisiting their CSR commitments, and digital communications have also made it easier to champion a cause and garner support.

Here are three recent examples of cause marketing that make for very interesting case studies of a still-evolving marketing strategy.


Rachael Petitt, Marketing Director at Uber, was one of the speakers at the Festival of Marketing 2016 and she gave us plenty of background to UberGiving.

In September 2016, the European refugee crisis was thrown into sharp relief by the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi. It was around this time that Uber decided to provide logistics support.

The app allowed people to swipe to ‘Giving’ and request a car to pick up donations such as blankets and clothing which would be delivered to local charity partners such as Save the Children in the UK.


Uber scaled the idea very rapidly, from idea to execution in 80 hours. The initiative rolled out in 46 cities across Europe, and resulted in 2,800 collections over September 9-10.

The company used blogs, email marketing, social media and a splash screen to market UberGiving.

A playbook was created with copy and content to allow each market to take part.

Some further results of the scheme:

  • Donations filled 10 shipping containers.
  • 232 partner drivers took part.
  • 2,828 collections were made.
  • 33,572 unique requests from customers were made.
  • 5.6m social impressions were generated with no media spend and no paid influencers.

Rachael explained the four factors that contributed to the success of UberGiving:

  • Customer first: Uber enabled riders to do something important to them.
  • Relevancy: Uber moved at record speed to make sure riders and partner-drivers could give back when they wanted to.
  • Tangible: Donations represented a real way to make a difference.
  • Reach: The campaign was shared widely without investment in media by Uber.

What was also interesting was Rachael’s admission that the marketing team needs “to prove a link between charitable campaigns and financial uplift.”

It does beg the question – ‘what if there is no financial uplift?’ Of course, this goes for all businesses engaging in cause marketing – if done well, it should be beneficial for all parties involved.

Rachael hinted at much more cause marketing over the next year, as Uber seeks to “do a better job of articulating what we stand for.”

Seven of the best charity marketing campaigns from 2017 

Starbucks – Raise a cup to a good cause

Starbucks’ email channel is immensely powerful, used to update Rewards members on seasonal specialities, new menu items, offers and general brand activity.

I recently received the email below and it struck me what a valuable piece of brand marketing it was.

Cause marketing like this does a lot to improve my perception of the brand (whether or not I actually take part in the campaign).

The campaign itself is a pretty simple one – Starbucks UK is partnering with Neighbourly (a community charitable-giving platform) to donate 5p for every festive drink sold to a range of nominated charities in the community.

250 nominated charities will each receive £500-£1,000.

Coinciding with the holiday period, the campaign runs during a time when Starbucks has plenty of seasonal activity (menu, decor, cups etc.) and at a time when people are more likely to be thinking of charitable causes.

Starbucks has worked with Neighbourly to assist local charities before, and this campaign is a simple but effective example of cause marketing.

It’s also worth noting larger schemes that Starbucks has initiated, with a total of $29m given to charities in 2015, partly through the Starbucks Foundation.

These campaigns include training for young people, access to clean water, and support for tea and coffee communities.

starbucks charitable email  starbucks charitable email

JetBlue – Soar with Reading

Since 2011, JetBlue’s Soar with Reading campaign has partnered with Random House and non-profit organisation FirstBook to provide children in low-income neighbourhoods with free books.

Over $1.75m worth of books have been donated so far, with some being creatively dispensed via free book vending machines placed in schools.

JetBlue also runs a volunteer program for staff. The Community Connection scheme allows crewmembers to gift a return flight to a charity for every 25 hours they volunteer.

jetblue soar with reading

In summary

There are many, many more of these examples.

Starbucks does well to use use email marketing to ramp up awareness but it’s UberGiving that really stands out here.

UberGiving increases direct engagement with the product (app usage), creates a lasting memory and feeling of mutual goodwill with the brand, and encourages donors to shout about their activity.

This may have been only two days of cause marketing, but brands who are able to serve a cause so visibly and directly alongside their product offering surely stand to benefit in the long term.

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