By Kirk Wakefield
The move by the Minnesota Timberwolves to find a patch sponsor that is “an agent of change for social advancement” is bound to be the first of many teams aligning with socially and culturally aware brands. The good news is we now live in a time where this makes good moral and financial sense.
Why? Because Americans value generous, purpose-driven brands.
Generosity characterizes America. The U.S. is the most generous country in the world. In times of crisis we come together to give. Our giving nature translates into fan expectations that leagues and media with money will donate to Covid-Relief initiatives. In turn, fans report support for leagues and brands that respond positively during the crisis. Consumers, particularly Gen Y & Z, are four to six times more likely to trust, buy, champion and recommend brands that have a strong purpose. The question is, who’s keeping score?
Kristen Fulmer, founder of Recipric, suggests teams and leagues can measure the mutual benefit of mission-driven metrics that parallel traditional ROI measurement. Fulmer suggests teams can “redefine home field advantage” using new elements that define fans, athletes, team, owners, and the community in a positive light. The process begins by cataloging, collecting and calculating the generosity quotient (GQ) of teams, owners, individual athletes and sponsoring brands. The relative return on generosity (ROG) measures the impact in two ways.
In principle, organizations with clear corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability objectives wish to produce a change in the perceptions and consumption behaviors that literally change the world. NRG sponsors the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles in part to influence fans to conserve energy, reduce waste and recycle. Are fans more likely to take these actions because of the partnership activation? The first scorecard would quantify the change in fans’ beliefs and behavior in accordance with the CSR and sustainability goals of the sponsor and the organization. These fans should, in turn, be more loyal to both the sponsor and team.
The second set of metrics relate to changes in the organization’s positioning in the minds of fans as a consequence of the collective assets deployed to reach CSR/sustainability goals. In the context of COVID-relief, the “assets” observable by fans include:
- Financial Contributions: Directly to community organizations or indirectly through funds (e.g., NFL Draftathon; NHL players donating to auctions, etc.) by organization (league or team) or athlete.
- Facility Repurposing: For direct relief (testing site, blood drives, staging areas, etc.) or indirect relief (e.g., ballpark food to go, drive-in movies, dining on the field, etc.).
- Production/Equipment Repurposing: Shifting production (e.g., sports companies producing medical supplies) or sharing equipment to provide support and relief.
- Meals delivered/donated to at-risk families (e.g., see how NFL Players are helping)
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Donated and/or delivered.
- Price concessions or assurances: Offering ticket price concessions, providing incentives, ticket insurance or other measures to protect consumers (e.g., like the Patriots letting season ticket holders skip a season).
- Benefits to essential workers: Providing childcare, extended medical care, or other benefits (e.g., Atlanta teams surprise nurses during Nurse Appreciation week).
The measurable consequences for the team and its sponsors are net increases in passion, preference and purchases. In the case of the Texans and Eagles, if it wasn’t for NRG, fans of these teams wouldn’t have it so good, considering the actions and support the sponsor provides as partner of the teams.
Top 10 Pro Sports Relief Roll Call
Thanks to Recipric, we showcase the generosity of pro sports located in the markets with some of the highest confirmed COVID cases per million people. When we, as fans, see the generosity of admired others, we will continue to pay it forward in our own circles of life. The net positive impact for brands and teams can be measured, but requires an intentional calculus to determine if the efforts achieve intended purposes.
- $4.5M+ donated to various community sports efforts by the Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots, and Celtics combined.
- 55k Masks. The number of N95 masks that Patriots’ brand partner Gillette donated to Boston area hospitals.
- 1 Private Airplane donated by Patriots’ Owner, Robert Kraft, to support the acquisition of PPE from a foreign country during a high-demand.
- $115k+ The amount of personal funds contributed to local Boston youth organizations by three Patriots players.
- ~10 The number of events at TD Garden, at least, that the Celtics pledged to pay to Gameday Staff after the events were cancelled.
- $1.4M The amount of money that the Yankees and NYCFC allocated for Yankee Stadium Game Day employees.
- 2.5 months the amount of time that Madison Square Garden extended payment to employees that weren’t able to work live events,
- 1 Sports Car and not just any car, but the Super Bowl MVP prize, donated to the All-In Challenge by the Giants’ Eli Manning.
- 3 companies the number of brand partners that Saquon Barkley partnered with to support local communities.
- $1M Contributions MetLife, sponsor of the Giants/Jets, gave to New York state funds.
- $50,000 donated to local New Orleans school nutrition fund, thanks to the Saint’s partnership with Dairy MAX and GENYOUTH.
- $5M that the Saints’ Drew Brees donated to Louisiana COVID-19 Relief fund.
- 30 days is how long Pelicans Forward Zion Williamson paid all Smoothie King game day employees after the season was postponed.
- 4 cities of Saints opponents where the team donated meals for front line workers on 2020/21 schedule release day.
- $1M the value of free smoothies Pelicans sponsor Smoothie King donated to local communities during the COVID-19 crisis.
- 2 Months of missed games the Monumental Sports (Wizards and Capitals) paid part-time stadium employees.
- $1M allocated for game day employees paid by the Washington Nationals.
- 1 parking lot space donated and repurposed into a community virus testing site by the Washington Redskins.
- $100k donated meal value by Redskins Adrian Peterson.
- $50M donated to global COVID-Relief efforts by Capitals and Wizards sponsor, Capital One.
- $1.92M the amount the Chicago Bears and Bears Care Program committed to local COVID-19 relief efforts.
- 1200 employees paid by the Blackhawks and Bulls for missed games when the seasons were cut short.
- $350k donated by the Bears Khalil Mack to low-income families in Chicago.
- $3.4M+ donated to Feeding America by Guaranteed Rate (sponsor of the White Sox).
- 6 days per week Wrigley Field’s concourse is converted into a food packing and distribution location for Lakeview Pantry which has served over 11,000 individuals since its opening.
- $2M+ donated by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and Eagles sponsor, Lincoln Financial, to community relief organizations
- 1 mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, involved in various community development efforts, including virtual bedtime stories for local youth and supporting hunger relief efforts, hosted by Citizens Bank Park.
- 1,500 gameday employees paid for missed games by the Phillies, 76ers, and Flyers.
- $175M contributed by the Flyers and 76ers sponsor, Wells Fargo, to COVID Relief.
- $500k is the sum of five Eagle’s players donated to Philadelphia Food Bank, including Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz, along with Jeffrey Lurie.
- 1 partnership between the Pistons and McDonalds to provide free meals to healthcare workers during the month of May.
- $4M contributed to Covid Relief by Comerica Bank, sponsor of the Detroit Tigers.
- 1 video with a powerful message Michigan Governor Whitmer created with players from the Lions, Pistons, Red Wings, and Tigers to share a call to action for healthcare volunteers.
- $500k pledged by Lions Sponsor, Ford, to local community organizations for Covid Relief.
- $1M donated by the Red Wings team and players to pay game day staff for missed games.
- 10,000 masks donated by Colts’ owner Jim Irsay to local healthcare workers.
- 1 manufacturer, Lucas Oil, Colts stadium title partner, pivoted production to create a new hand sanitizer product line and donate a portion of sales to local community.
- 12 Community Centers received $35,000 each from a joint fundraiser held by the Colts and Pacers.
- $1M donated to local food bank by Colts.
- $10,000 given to hospital by Pacers guard, Victor Oladipo.
- $1M donated by the Orioles to support game day staff who missed opportunities to work during the hiatus.
- 3,000 ponchos donated by the Ravens to local nursing homes to repurpose into protective equipment during PPE shortage.
- 1 t-shirt, a $10 gift card, a COVID-19 antibody test, a wellness check, and an Orioles Bobblehead are all incentives to participate in a blood drive hosted in a parking lot near Camden Yards Stadium.
- $200k donated by M&T Bank, Ravens’ partner, to Maryland Food Bank and Capital Area Food Bank.
- 75,000 meals donated by Ravens Nick Boyle and Willie Snead IV to local community organizations including a foodbank and healthcare facility.
- 350,000 bars of soap donated by Dolphins sponsor, Hard Rock, to the Clean the World Foundation at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Also donated $250k to Red Cross of Florida.
- 1,000 employees at American Airlines Arena receive relief money from Heat ownership to support them while out of work.
- $500k pledged by the Dolphins to support youth through public school systems and for relief efforts for seniors through local church organizations.
- 1,000 jerseys from merchandise stock donated by the Marlins to make masks for Miami local essential workers.
- 24 hours for the Heat’s Meyers Leonard to raise $70,000 from fans to support his goal to feed one million people affected by the virus.