Virtual Online Communities
One Percent for the Planet

Saving Nemo or Ecological Sponsorship


I took this picture at the Great Barrier Reef. It's a world heritage listed site and supposedly protected as such.

However, some estimates suggest almost 70% of the reef is already dead in some areas and a recent World Wildlife Fund for Nature report projects that as much as 95% of the whole thing might be gone by 2050. Others think this is optimistic.

Depressing isn't it?

So let me explain the Disney logo. It's a pretty simple idea. When I was diving, the single most referred to thing was Finding Nemo, usually in the context of "Found Him!".

This got me thinking. The problem with saving the environment and that sort of thing seems to me to be a type of economic free rider problem - since no one is responsible individually, only collectively,  no one feels the need to do anything about it.

A corporation's primary responsibilty is to deliver growth for its shareholders. Therefore, if we can show that helping the environment will deliver tangible benefits for a brand, we could get these global economic powers and their financial and political muscle  involved.

To do this, I think we need to reposition the whole thing. Take this type of activity out of the Corporate Social Responsibility budget [something that money men consider, at best, a necessary expense] and move it into the much larger consumer marketing budgets: show how it can be used as a strategic marketing platform that delivers return on investment.

So let's call it a sponsorship. Instead of using the World Cup as a global platform, use a World Heritage or other environmental site that is in danger. Follow the standard rules of sponsorship - get involved with something that is consistent with or will help grow the web of associations that make up your brand. Spend as much again promoting the sponsorship as you did on it. Leverage the sponsorship internally, with customers, throughout your product line and touchpoints to build a stronger relationship with people and offer a tangible point of difference that gets people to support your brand.

This is Strategic Philanthropy - no hippies required. Disney sponsors the Great Barrier Reef as ongoing support for Nemo. Further, 1.8 million visit the Reef every year and spend approximately AU$4.3 billion (Australian Dollars) on reef-related industries from diving to boat rental to posh island resorts stays. Disney is active in all of these industries - it has cruises and resorts - so it can rapidly monetise its ecological sponsorship by becoming the official tour operator for the region - as long as it ensures the ongoing sponsorship to maintain it.

Another example: instead of getting Pele to talk about impotence [ok maybe as well as - that was hilarious] Pfizer sponsors a rain forest or two - the link being that that rain forests are the world's biggest pharmacy: 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients but less than 1% of the plants have thus far been tested.

Brands that believe in something tend to resonate more with today's consumer.

All we need is to make sure that consumers continue to vote with their wallets, supporting brands that are doing some good.