I am always looking for new ways to connect my advanced marketing students with real life projects that give them a hands-on experience on how marketing is used throughout society, not just in the for-profit business world.
One of the projects I began a few years back was to have the students work together to plan and organize a “cause marketing” project, partnering their business with their chosen non-profit charity to create an event that not only raises much needed money for the charity but brings awareness to their cause.
One of the examples I use is the American Lung Association Bike Ride in Westminster, where they ride up the hill at Kate Wagner Road to the Farm Museum. As they move higher up the long and challenging hill, they are reminded with messages on signs scattered throughout the hill on what it’s like to live with lung disease every day.
For many years I had the opportunity to serve as a guest bartender as well as chairman of the local walk-a-thon to raise money for a cause near and dear to my heart, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In an effort to promote a better understanding of the disease during Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month, several of us offered our time and energy toward a very worthy cause.
It wasn’t a great environment to promote the fight against a lung-borne disease, but what impressed me were the number of people that I had met through recreation, club, and high school sports that came out to support our cause.
People I coached with, played with, competed against, all coming out to share some good times and help raise funds.
There are many ways in which sports and sports figures can work with the general public to help bring awareness to certain causes that combine the star power of the professional athlete with the resources of hard working volunteers to reach a common goal.
As much as it turned my stomach and thought it was another example of a modern day athlete making the story all about “ME,” when Lebron James held his “The Decision” press conference, the ordeal raised over $3 million for local charities. In addition, his family foundation spends millions of dollars every year to help send disadvantaged kids to private schools.
The Boomer Esiason Foundation created a partnership between leaders in the medical and business fields to pour millions of dollars into research to help make the lives of those with Cystic Fibrosis a little easier until they are able to find an outright cure. The results are just short of remarkable as Boomer and their son Gunnar continue to be the faces of the fight and their research funded by their efforts continues to extend the life expectancy of those affected by the disease.
Each one of these is a great cause, and the money raised by attaching these high-profile athletes to their cause is staggering.
There are many ways in which these charities tie people’s willingness to help with their time and money to sports related activities. There are countless numbers of walkathons that raise money by pledging donations based on the number of miles walked or steps taken.
Cystic Fibrosis has Great Strides, the Arthritis Foundation and the Multiple Sclerosis Foundations have versions of walks. Alzheimer’s has Memory Walk, and the Down Syndrome Foundation has its Buddy Walk.
Many of my high school classmates each year gather to spend hours walking in support of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
There are also other ways to raise money besides walking that place an emphasis on sports. There are bowl-a-thons and jump roping contests. Bike rides are organized to benefit the Diabetes Association, the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Multiple Sclerosis, and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of Maryland/DC. Soccer has its Kicks Against Breast Cancer tournament, highlighting women’s intercollegiate soccer, and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s “Speed for the Cure” partners with NASCAR to offer certain donors the opportunity to drive or ride in a car at the Dover racetrack.
Kids are constantly looking for creative ways to raise money and awareness for certain causes. Many of my sons’ friends, neighbors, and former lacrosse teammates organized a “fiddlestyx” lacrosse tournament and donated the money they raised to a charity that benefited another of their classmates who was involved in a near fatal automobile crash.
The money wasn’t competing with what the James Family Foundation can do, but sometimes it’s thought that counts, and this came straight from their hearts.
With so many ways to offer our assistance, I encourage you to find one close to your heart and get involved. Confucius said, “He who wished to secure the good of others, has already secured his own.”
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Who among us can’t use to walk a little more or take a bike ride down a country road for a good cause?