Professional athletes align with causes and charities to help make a difference in the community.
Professional athletes and teams are some of the most recognizable figures around the world. While constantly in the limelight, these athletes build up a national and international fan base, with millions of supporters following their every move.
Athletes try to focus on results on the field or the court, until a cause becomes personal. These individuals have an incredible platform to engage a legion of fans and followers to support causes, and this concept is just scratching the surface in terms of its potential.
The New York Times recently ran a column focusing on the causes close to athletes and high-profile individuals and how they leveraged this to impact a community. For example, Jay Fishman became the CEO of Travelers in 2004. However, in 2014, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Mr. Fishman said, “I came a little tongue and cheek to one of two conclusions, either because I was being punished for something I did in a previous life that was horrible or alternatively because I could make a difference.”
Since Travelers is a lead sponsor at a PGA golf tournament, the idea was born to raise money for ALS related causes at the event. Almost $2.8 million was raised at the PGA event, and coupling that with $20 million that Mr. Fishman personally gave for research and potential treatments. The pairing of sports and charity became a platform for the brand that everyone could rally around.
Charitable organizations love being associated with sports teams for the brand lift and recognition that is received. Sports fans are more inclined to give to causes linked to their favorite teams or players. According to Alisha Greenberg, founder of Rounding Third, which tracks sports philanthropy efforts, “A lot of motivation comes from the owners. If an owner is philanthropic or passionate, they will be a stronger community advocate.”
“We do focus on youth, which is our sweet spot,” said Kathy Behrens, the president of social responsibility and player programs at the N.B.A., which runs the NBA Fit program. “We really try to find organizations that share our values, have excellent programming and good metrics in place, and we try to help them to do their jobs.” Because sports attract so much attention, teams and leagues receive dozens of pitches for partnership each year. The organizations need to be strategic in who they work with in order to maximize philanthropic efforts and to create a win-win relationship."
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