Getting in bed with the wrong sponsor can be a nightmare for nonprofit’s and government.

Sponsorships always sound like a good thing, especially when you are a non profit and some one is willing to lay down a whole lot of money . But you need to be careful who you “get in bed with”, especially if you are a non-profit or government organization. Marketers underestimate the importance of the ” right fit . Take the following example of A Children’s Hospital in Columbus Ohio

A $50 million donation to The Nationwide Children’s Hospital is drawing fire from advocacy groups for its embrace of corporate sponsors. The facility is preparing to break ground on the Abercrombie & Fitch Emergency Department and Trauma Center. The affiliation with Abercrombie, known for its not-exactly-child-friendly advertising, is drawing criticism. Abercrombie donated $10 million to the hospital in 2006 for the construction of the center.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood sounded alarms with a widely distributed press release detailing its position, as well as a letter sent to hospital officials. The group also began a letter-writing campaign today in opposition of the use of the retailer’s name. The advocacy group earlier created a public-relations nightmare for McDonald’s over its sponsorship of student report cards. The fast-food chain discontinued that program in January.

According to the advocacy group “Abercrombie & Fitch is really among the worst of corporate predators,” . “A company with such cynical disregard for children’s well-being shouldn’t be able to claim the mantle of healing. They also found it very concerning that they named their hospital after an insurance company.

Here are the comments from the spinners”
Jon Fitzgerald, president of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Foundation, explained that the hospital is not selling naming rights but recognizing donors for “transformational” gifts. “It’s a very common practice that when an institution is fortunate enough to receive a significant gift, or any gift for that matter, it requires some sort of recognition,” he said. “If you took a look across universities and other hospitals you would see many retailers involved in naming opportunities at those institutions.”
Mr. Fitzgerald also said the hospital, not the corporations, made the decision to rename or name certain areas in their honor. He noted that because design plans for the new building have not been finalized, he could not comment on how the Abercrombie & Fitch name would be used.
In response to the letter, Mr. Fitzgerald expressed concern. “Clearly we’re open to talking to anyone who has issue with the directions we take to support our mission,” he said. “And clearly we’ll take into account what their concerns are. But this is a 2-year-old decision.”
Tom Lennox, a spokesman for Abercrombie & Fitch who has also served on the hospital foundation’s board of trustees since 2005, said, “We are proud of our long-standing relationship with the hospital and pleased to help secure its bright future.” He declined to comment further.

Brent Pickett who is an Engagement Manager in the San Francisco office of Prophet (www.prophet.com), a consulting firm specializing in brand and business strategy states” “How would you characterize the integrity and strength of the sponsorship organization offering the sponsorship? What are the risk factors of associated with the property and what is the potential impact on your brand?

Let’s face it this was not a match made in heaven to say the least. So before you decide to develop a sponsorship you need to have guidelines and criteria for your organization. For more information see the article my colleagues and I published in Social Marketing Quarterly on our web site under Resources at www.publicsectormarketing.ca

If you have any comments , including any cases you know where the sponsorship was a bad fit , please post on my blog.

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About jimmintz

Managing Partner, CEPSM Jim Mintz is a veteran marketing professional with many years of experience as a practioner and academic. He is presently Managing Partner at CEPSM and Program Director of the “Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing” at Sprott School ... Specialty Areas: Social Marketing, Integrated Marketing Communications, Public Sector and Non Profit Marketing
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