Why Charitable Foundations need to be Extra Careful with Partnerships

In 2012, I wrote a blog on breast cancer and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The pink ribbon carries a lot of associations—women’s health, breast cancer, all types of runs, pink clothing on football players etc.

But in a prominent fight between breast cancer charity, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and women’s health organization Planned Parenthood, the ribbon was suddenly associated with controversy in an area which makes no sense except in the fanatical right-to-life world in the USA where the anti-abortion movement is very strong. What happened was the breast cancer charity decided to pull hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to Planned Parenthood, citing a congressional investigation over whether Planned Parenthood uses federal funds for abortions. Planned Parenthood in turn accused the Komen Foundation of having “succumbed to political pressure.”

The move immediately incited backlash in the media and online, but the charity’s communications strategy and response was roundly criticized. Komen was slow to respond online — and when it did, it changed its message numerous times. First, it cited a policy stating that it doesn’t provide funding to organizations under investigation. After critics were quick to equate that to a political move aimed at appeasing right-wing donors, Komen changed tacks and said the real reason was actually related to the fact that Planned Parenthood doesn’t actually administer screenings but hands out referrals for mammograms. See my blog

Well here we go again. They are now under fire for its partnership with Baker Hughes, one of the world’s largest oilfield services, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Huffington Post, Baker Hughes announced it would paint 1,000 of its gold drill bits pink to “serve as a reminder of the importance of supporting research, treatment, screening, and education to help find cures for this disease.” Source


San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Action “thanked Susan G. Komen and Baker Hughes for partnering on the most ludicrous piece of pink sh*t they’ve seen all year—1,000 shiny pink drill bits.” The organization said the partnership is “the most egregious example of ‘pink-washing’ they’ve ever seen,” noting that toxic fracking chemicals are linked to breast cancer.

Will this become a full-out crisis that will significantly damage their reputation and relationships with donors and supporters? Hard to say, but clearly this was a poor choice in selecting a partner. It’s not the first time the Foundation has come under fire and it most likely won’t be the last. What matters more from a reputational point of view is how true they stay to their declared set of values and priorities.


CEPSM launches new In-House Training Program

In response to the growing demand for the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (CEPSM) to bring its marketing training In-House to departments and organizations across Canada, CEPSM has prepared value-driven, cost-saving options from seminars to certificate programs. You choose the size of audience, pick a topic and agenda or have us customize one for you.  There are a range of useful topics that are tailored for either the public sector or not-for-profit sector.


CEPSM’s In-House Consultation and Professional Development Programs provide your public sector organization with a wide range of affordable options for accessing marketing and communications experts in the comfort of your own workplace.

What are the benefits?

  • Involve more staff and stakeholders in the planning process
  • Learn about best practices for marketing and communications in the public sector
  • Save on travel costs to conferences, workshops and events
  • Get information that is tailored to your specific environment

 CEPSM provides public sector-related expertise in the following key marketing and communications disciplines:

  •  Fundamentals of Marketing 
  •  Creative Marketing Techniques
  •  Social Marketing for Behaviour Change  
  •  Social Media Monitoring 
  •  Strategic Social Media Engagement
  •  Marketing Research and Evaluation 
  •  Partnerships, Strategic Alliances and Collaborative Arrangements

CEPSM’s In-House Consultation and Professional Development Programs provide your association with a wide range of affordable options for accessing marketing and communications experts in the comfort of your own workplace.

What are the benefits?

  • Involve more staff and stakeholders in the planning process
  • Learn about best practices from the association sector
  • Save on travel costs to conferences and events
  • Get information that is tailored to your specific environment

CEPSM provides association-related expertise in the following key marketing disciplines:

  •   Association Branding
  •   Event Management
  •   Integrated Marketing Communications
  •   Membership Marketing and Recruitment
  •   Revenue Generation Assessment Selling Strategies and Techniques
  •   Social Marketing for Behaviour Change
  •   Social Media Monitoring
  •   Strategic Social Media Engagement
  •   Sponsorship Program Development
  •   Strategic Marketing Planning

Retain the Services of a CEPSM Expert at an Affordable Price

Call Claire Mills at 613-731-9851 ext. 20 or e-mail: clairemills@cepsm.ca


Get out your calendar and insert the dates of exciting events at the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing

1. World Social Marketing Conference

The Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing is delighted to be involved with the World Social Marketing Conference, which will take place in Toronto, Canada from April 21-23, 2013.

The conference attracts participants from many countries and you will get the opportunity to meet social marketers from Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe, South and North America. This is a tremendous opportunity to learn from social marketers around the world and most important the opportunity to network with social marketers like yourself.

Note: The Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing will be running a pre-conference 1 day social marketing workshop entitled: Social Marketing Planning: Implementing an Effective Campaign

For more information go to:   http://wsmconference.com/

2.  MARCOM Professional Development

The dates are set: May 28 & 29, 2013
Mark your calendar and start your training plan!
The location is set: Ottawa Convention Centre

Plan now to attend the only forum of this kind in Canada!

3. Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing

The only Canadian university certificate program for government and non-profit marketers.

Feb. 13 – May 23, 2013

7 Course Modules – 8 days over 4 months

Register Today!

4. Social Marketing Strategies that Change Attitudes and Behaviour… Moving Beyond Awareness

When: February 6, 2013

Where: Delta Barrington Hotel

1875 Barrington Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3J 3L6

(902) 429-7410


To learn about all of our training programs

Go to our web site Cepsm.ca





Olympics Fun to Watch but a Terrible Investment

At the Olympics in China, every color was represented… and that was just the drinking water. Evan Sayet

I recently read that the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism in Canada thinks that there are “great upcoming opportunities, including the Pan Am Games” to draw in tourist dollars to Canada. Well yes, I do understand that politicians who are not known for their business acumen think the Olympics and similar sporting events are going to fill up the cash registers in the community they are held.

Of course if any of them would do their homework they would remember the Mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau, confidently predicted that “the 1976 Olympics can no more have a deficit than a man can have a baby”. The Olympic legacy was a poor one for Montreal. The city faced 30 years of debt after the games finished. The stadium became known as “The Big Owe”, and its astronomical costs were only finally paid in full in December 2006.

However the politicians will tell you there is mucho tourist dollars associated with the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Pan Am Games etc. The facts of course never get in the way of a politician who wants to make the big score by bringing home a big event for their jurisdiction.

Well, looking for an out-of-the-way holiday destination this summer – some undiscovered place that’s off the tourist trail? Try London. You might think the British capital would be jammed to the rafters with visitors flying in for the 2012 Olympics, which has attracted 100,000 spectators from other countries. But in an economic phenomenon that repeats itself every cycle; the Olympics have driven away most of the 300,000 tourists who’d usually be in London over the summer – a loss that far outweighs any tourism benefits from the Games. Source

By Jove never heard the Mayor of London telling us this was going to happen!

The results are dramatic. This week during the Olympics you could roll a bowling ball through Covent Garden without striking anyone. In Leicester Square, you can actually see the ground. Soho’s bars have plenty of patio seats available. If you have been to London in the summer you know that in any normal early August, these places would all be packed to the rafters.

It may go against intuition, but having the Olympics arrive in town has made London a completely different place .The central London attractions such as the London Zoo, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the British Museum are all seeing attendance figures down 30 to 35 per cent last week compared to the same week last year. As a result there are no queues and tickets are easy to get.

“Olympics would earn billions, we were told. Some hope!” the Daily Mail tabloid harrumphed this week.”

The hotel industry is suffering from the lowest booking levels in years.  58 per cent of Britain’s hoteliers felt that the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee have been “non-events” that have had a “negative impact” on business.

Bloody awful! Has anyone briefed her majesty and her entourage?

The result has been a mass selloff of empty rooms. Rooms at four-star hotels in Bloomsbury and St. Paul’s are going for less than £170, £80 to £100 below their usual summer rates.

Further from the Olympic site, the Hilton Paddington (do they serve marmalade sandwiches?) was dumping its rooms for less than £120, and rooms in decent three-star hotels in West London were easy to find for less than £100.  London hotel prices are on average now 25 per cent lower than usual.

Gawd Blimey, London’s legendary West End theatres have been devastated; their expensive plays largely ignored by crowds that are more interested in the real-life drama of sports.  Theatre owners say they are “bleeding,” and a number of long-running plays will be closing due to lack of advance-ticket demand.

Jolly good show! Not!

Restaurants have been hit particularly hard, having lost both tourist traffic and the business of many Londoners, who have fled to the seaside or stayed home during the Games amid warnings from the mayor that the transit system would be overcrowded. (London Underground traffic has increased by only 4 per cent during the Olympics.)

Thanks Mayor! That was blooming stupid!

There has been a marked fall in restaurant bookings … London restaurants have seen a double-digit fall, sometimes considerably more. Covent Garden restaurant, Porters, had seen a 72-per-cent fall in earnings.

I say, old chap! What a turn of events!

And the cash registers aren’t ringing as loudly. Customer levels in central-London shops last Saturday were almost 12 per cent below their level a year before. Even in East London, where the Olympics are located, shopping was down by 7.5 per cent.

According to the tourism experts the Olympic tourist doesn’t act like a normal tourist. They tend not to go to theater and other attractions. Their Olympic-based itineraries are usually so prescriptive they have to be at venues at specific times.

Well now you would think that this should be a big surprise to the Brits but it is not.

This devastation of the tourist market is experienced by virtually every city that holds the Olympic Games – the organizers – usually sports nuts or former athletes including Olympians who are well connected to the government in power predict great tourism benefits which never materialize.  (It’s no wonder politicians want to attach themselves to the Olympics and their country’s Olympic team. They give politicians a chance to show off their patriotism, tie themselves to athletes and games that are more popular than politics, and get seen on the boob tube.)

In any city that already has substantial levels of tourism – that is, virtually any city that could qualify to host an Olympics like Toronto, Montreal, New York and Chicago  – there is a lot more to be lost than gained from the Games. But the promoters of these sports events either do no not do their homework or are dishonest –take your choice. Source

While Winter Games don’t always fit the pattern, as they take place in smaller cities with fewer hotels and entertainment venues, Vancouver did fail to experience a gain in tourism in the year following its 2010 Winter Olympics. I can still hear the BC politicians and their minions telling the voters that the Olympics were going to be a “windfall” for Vancouver and BC. Well it never happened.

In 2000, in Aussie land, Sydney hoped to see 132,000 tourists during the Games, but saw only 97,000, and experienced no growth in tourism in the years afterward. I can remember being in Sydney in December 1999 being told by the folks who I met with in the Prime Minister’s Office that the Olympics were going to put Sydney and Australia on the map and bring a ton of tourist dollars . It didn’t.

Four years later, Athens had an even worse experience: Its organizers had hoped for 105,000 hotel guests a night, but received only 14,000. Not saying that the Olympics contributed to Greece’s bankruptcy but it sure didn’t help.

Well what about Olympic sponsors?

Recent news has drummed into us that Olympic sponsorship may in fact not be worth the investment. (Things the IOC never discuss)

Big brands have invested up to 80 million pounds (125 million US/Canadian dollars) just to be criticised – not to mention confused with non-sponsors. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) vehemently defends its strict regulations on the grounds that official sponsors must be protected and allowed a ‘clear run’, especially around the Olympic venues. On one hand, what LOCOG overlooks is a basic tenet of branding: it’s all about the consumer.

While they may believe they are in fact protecting the official sponsors by harshly regulating marketing and advertising, they may in fact be pushing consumers away from the very brands they are striving to help. Visa, for example, is struggling to put a positive spin on the “greedy” label it has received after any other brand was blocked from becoming an online credit or debit card ticket payment option at the Games, as well as the only acceptable card at Olympic events.

Thanks to a situation in which brands are essentially shoved down consumers’ throats inside official Olympic venues, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are feeling similar effects. Only last week, news broke that McDonald’s has told the organisers to ban 800 food retailers at 40 Olympic sites from serving chips with their meals. The sponsorship obligations meant that only fish and chips have been spared the prohibition.

But what has not been taken into account are the post-game effects of such pushing. Will consumers use Visa during the games? Without a doubt – because there’s no alternative. Will they resent Visa once they return home? They just might. Source

So the Olympics are great to watch and like most people  am enjoying them but as a marketer I have to say when you look at the impact to sponsors and countries who organize these massive sporting events you have to wonder is this a good marketing investment or boardroom vanity.