Between sponsorship and good business practices: a shared vision
|In domains||Electronics and Information Technology, Giving Back to the Community|
Since 2005, Rogers has supported community organisation Tel-jeunes in close cooperation with partners such as advertising agency Marketel, which has developed an advertising campaign (television commercials, printed materials, outdoor advertising, etc.) funded by Rogers. All those involved offer their time free of charge.
The campaign and the organisation focus their efforts on the same demographic through the use of shared technologies (wireless services and the Internet). Rogers also finances tours in secondary schools across Québec to provide youth with information about Tel-jeunes and invite them to contact the organisation at any time regarding problems or issues that are troubling them. In this way Rogers is reaching one of several population segments that are of interest to the company in Québec, that of young people between the ages of 15 and 24. It is a good example of social marketing (Rogers also finances fund-raising activities for the organisation). As Sylvie Charette, Vice-President of Marketing and Communications in Québec, says, “our association with Tel-jeunes is a natural fit and is our way of acting as a socially responsible partner in Québec.”
Tel-jeunes is a 24-hour telephone and online counselling service aimed primarily at youth between the ages of five and 20. The messages, designed by Marketel, invite young people to contact the organisation but advise them that they should then speak to a qualified person if they need help with various problems (romantic or parent-child relationships, sexuality, drugs, bullying at school, suicide, violence, etc.).
For Rogers, this is a natural partnership that boosts the company’s image in the community and among young people themselves. Through its support, Rogers is using its marketing and communications know-how to help a local social cause: the advertising campaign promoting the Tel-jeunes helpline service (as part of its usual business operations, Rogers has designed a campaign considered by communication experts to be among the best in Canada aimed at youth). In this way, the company is helping to strengthen the social fabric of the local community.
Rogers benefits in two ways from this practice:
i) the company’s market position in terms of its wireless and Internet services is strengthened among its target demographic;
ii) by promoting openness and frank discussion in its advertising campaign, Rogers gains a reputation for integrity and trustworthiness (honesty in advertising is a quality appreciated by young people).
Implementing this practice proved to be quite easy. When Rogers decided to do so, it was unsure whether the social cause chosen would dovetail with its corporate values and brand image. After meeting with its partners and a public relations firm, Rogers considered various strategies to enhance its image with the public. At the time, mobile phones were not as popular as they are today; the company was trying to gain a foothold among its most important target demographic in Québec by associating itself with an important cause that also reflected its corporate values.
Rogers felt that an association with the Tel-jeunes campaign would be beneficial for the company. It was important for management that company personnel be able to identify with the cause and genuinely believe in it. If a given company launches a social campaign in an effort to divert attention from its other activities, it could well be seen in a negative light by consumers, which poses a risk to both the cause itself and the corporate brand.
In this case, it seems only proper and appropriate that a wireless phone company popular among youth would provide, by means of such a partnership, a practical solution to their problems, namely, the telephone and online counselling service offered by Tel-jeunes.
To create the most recent campaigns, representatives from Tel-jeunes, Rogers and Marketel met for discussions. Tel-jeunes explained the problems and issues of greatest concern to youth today and outlined its communication needs in terms of reaching its target demographic. Following these discussions, it was possible to come up with various ideas for the campaigns. It is essential that an advertising firm be sufficiently informed so that it can properly formulate ideas without a formal briefing having to be drafted.
Several weeks later, Marketel presented various campaign ideas to Tel-jeunes and Rogers at a meeting attended by all the parties concerned. After the ideas were reviewed, one was chosen and polished. The subsequent steps were more or less those of a typical production process, during which Tel-jeunes worked closely with the creators and provided expertise based on its experience with youth. Rogers felt it was important that the problems and issues in the advertisements be shown in a fair and representative manner.
The television advertisement starts with a short scene in which a young person is shown explaining a very personal problem to someone unqualified to provide assistance; following this, the three actors usually associated with Rogers Wireless commercials face the camera and say, “It’s not because you’re talking that we listen to you. Talk to the right person. Tel-jeunes.”
For this type of project, it is essential that company personnel are fully committed, given the amount of time they will have to devote pro bono. Since the staff (i.e., the communications team) are busy all year long, management must ensure that all members of a team are on board with the project.
However, Rogers reports that in the case of this particular practice, no problems were experienced within the company during the implementation of the project. It may be that the company prefers not to specify whether any friction was encountered, but since the work atmosphere at Rogers is known to be excellent and the team involved was directed by well-liked and charismatic supervisors, it is quite possible that the usual pitfalls involved with implementing such a practice were avoided.
The partnership was enthusiastically accepted by the employees. Those leading the project within the company were motivated from the beginning, each member helping in his or her own way to make it a success in terms of marketing, communications, public relations, and so on. Interestingly, all the departments involved apparently made unique contributions to the project.
It is difficult to quantify the gains Rogers has made in terms of public recognition of its socially responsible corporate behaviour. In this case the results have been positive, although intangible. However, the practice has nonetheless been of benefit to the company. One can point to social marketing, of course, but the practice also falls into the categories of social sponsorship and “cause marketing”; these types of marketing may enable Rogers to strengthen its brand image in Québec.
Social marketing can play an important role in a company’s social and environmental responsibility strategy, encompassing areas as diverse as education, health, anti-racism and human rights. The results of a given practice can be measured according to the cause being supported. For Tel-jeunes, which is a non-profit organisation, Rogers’ business model is a useful and profitable resource; it has allowed the organisation to increase its visibility through an effective advertising campaign.
The partnership has also indirectly boosted the organisation’s marketing budget in Québec and helped finance its mission at a time when funding for social marketing across Canada is declining.
Bell Canada has partnered with Kids Help Phone and provided financial assistance to the annual “Bell Walk for Kids Help Phone”. The campaign aims to provide funding to meet the growing need for counselling services among community organisations working with youth. In Québec, the Bell Walk usually takes place in Chicoutimi, Gatineau, Montréal, Québec and Trois-Rivières.
This practice by Bell Canada is mainly a fund-raising event, whereas the one carried out by Rogers is geared primarily toward sharing the company’s business expertise (entrepreneurial know-how).
Social marketing is associated with brands such as the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), the province’s liquor control board (campaign to raise awareness about alcohol consumption), Benetton (anti-racism campaign), Honda (road safety campaign) and the Body Shop (campaign to promote products that have not been tested on animals).
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December 10, 2008 - 12:15
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