Cause marketing refers to supporting a social issue or cause in exchange for promotional exposure, while sponsorship refers to supporting an event, organization or individual regardless of whether it is a charity or other service-oriented entity. Donating a portion of your sales to an animal shelter is an example of cause marketing, while paying to have your name associated with a professional sporting event is an example of sponsorship.


Using cause marketing helps you create consumer loyalty or affinity among customers and potential customers who have a personal interest in the cause or the charitable work of an organization advocating that cause. If your target customers are parents, sponsoring a youth sports team or league sends a message that you care about children. If your target customers are women, donating a portion of your sales to breast cancer research shows you support the health of women. Sponsoring events, whether they are cause-related or not, allows you to associate your company with the event and its image. With both cause-related marketing and sponsorships, you get organizations promoting you and using their media contacts to acknowledge you.


Working with causes can backfire if you choose an issue that polarizes people. For example, supporting an event or organization that promotes a particular religion, political party or social issue can rally one group of people around your brand but cause others to avoid you. When you sponsor an event, you rely on the event promoter to represent you properly, distribute your goods or samples and include your name and logo in all of the signage, media and marketing materials you negotiated. Regardless of how the event turns out, your name is associated with that event, even if something goes wrong and you had nothing to do with it.

Cause Marketing Methods

In addition to sponsorships, cause-related marketing opportunities include options such as donations, providing event staffing, obtaining official partner status and giving in-kind donations. As part of cause-marketing, you might agree to donate a specific percentage of your sales to an organization. The organization often sets a minimum donation regardless of sales and expects to have the right to audit your books.

You might arrange for your employees to act as ushers at sporting events, phone bank staffers during a fundraiser, parking attendants or concession workers. Donating items to a charity event allows you to pay for the sponsorship with goods or services and obtain sampling opportunities at events. In-kind donations can include accounting or marketing services, food and beverages, clothing, sporting goods or other items you sell.

Sponsorship Methods

Sponsorships can include involvement with single events or an ongoing relationship status with an entity. For example, you might negotiate official sponsorship status for one tournament or concert. You can negotiate official sponsor status with an organization year-round, getting exposure in all of its promotional vehicles, such as packaging, website pages, events and social media. On-site event benefits often include product giveaways to participants or attendees, signage, free tickets, a booth and your name or logo on participant clothing.