These days, no detail is being overlooked when it comes to increasing sales. In addition to shifting marketing dollars to social media, companies are also scrutinizing how they appear to consumers. For decades,  this has meant spending money to sponsor organizations and causes that consumers care about. But all that has been changing in the past few years. Large companies are making small grants, sometimes as small as $5,000,  to consumers who apply for help with their own socially responsible projects.

Writing for Advertising Age, Natalie Zmuda and Emily Bryson York catalog the benefits of this new micro-sponsorship trend.

  • Consumers become more engaged in the firm’s social media efforts
  • Smaller charities receive a financial boost
  • The investment can yield free market result data

However, the downside of these programs is that they can be difficult to administer and calculating return on investment can prove challenging.  Other analysts worry that rewarding many micro-sponsorships could dilute brand image. But, in general, studies from research concerns such as Cone indicate increasing numbers of consumers will be swayed to select a brand “associated with a good cause.” Jim Stengel, former Procter & Gamble Co. global marketing officer, indicates the trend is “particularly effective with college students who are idealistic and want to be part of something larger.”

Professor Derek Rucker at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management cautions that the micro-sponsorship trend is growing so quickly that it  there “will be a stigma attached to sitting on the sidelines.” Look for more large marketers to explore investing in micro-sponsorship in 2010.

[Source: Zmuda, Natalie and Emily Bryson York. Cause Effect: Brands Rush to Save World One Deed at a Time. Advertising Age. 1 March 2010. Web. 5 March 2010]