Are organizations for good the new ‘celebrities’ brands should team-up with?
We are all familiar with collaborations between fashion brands and celebrities. Since as early as the mid 18th century, celebrity endorsements have been used to increase brand awareness and boost business success.
Instant ‘Coolness’ through Partnerships for Good in Fashion
In the second half of the 20th century, sports-, fashion- and retail brands teamed up with celebrity athletes, artists and fashion designers to become part of the youth culture and boost their business success.
Through collaboration with relevant idols and influencers, brands get access to an audience that otherwise might not even have noticed or considered them; a collaboration that gives the brand and its customers instant ‘cool’ status.
Today, to engage with Generation Y and Z (millennials and post-millennials), brands are increasingly called to express their vision towards ethical, social and environmental issues.
Take Nike, for example, that in September this year embraced the #TakeaKnee movement, by putting out a video clip featuring Colin Kaepernick, the (now former-) NFL quarterback who would take a knee at the playing of the US national anthem in symbolic protest to racism in America. Nike’s controversial ad angered and turned away some customers who believe that Kaepernick behaved unpatriotically. But they clearly also gained respect and loyalty from large parts of their target audience; in the 10 days after the campaign they sold out 61% more products than in the 10 days prior. (Source: Reuters). In light of the sweeping response, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a Nike & Kaepernick collection appear in the near future.
The new cool is clean, fair and responsible.
Are organizations that do good the new ‘celebrities’ that brands should seek out? With the growing awareness for more responsibility in fashion, could organizations like UNICEF, Greenpeace and the WWF become the new ‘celebrity partners’ that brands should team up and advertise with?
By collaborating with cause-led-organizations, brands can gain esteem and the partnership organisations can both obtain funding for their work and raise awareness for their cause. UNICEF and the IUCN are two organisations that have established such partnerships with retail brands.
UNICEF – United Nations Children’s Fund
One of the most worrying topics in the fashion industry are the poor labour conditions,including (hidden) child labour. UNICEF, with its goal to ‘protect the rights of every child’ is probably the most renowned organisation to fight for children’s rights. It is therefore no surprise that fashion-related enterprises seek out UNICEF for possible collaboration. In the past decades, UNICEF has partnered with several businesses that seek to ‘give back’ by providing funding to UNICEF initiatives, and would like to be recognized for doing so.
Unicef ♡ Louis Vuitton Since 2016, Louis Vuitton has been partnering with UNICEF. The aim of this global partnership is to raise funds for UNICEF and to help support children that are exposed to conflicts, diseases, natural disasters and other situations that threaten their safety and well-being.
With the #makeapromise-bracelet, Louis Vuitton raises funds (At a price-tag of USD500 per bracelet, 40% goes to UNICEF) and awareness for UNICEF and the causes the organisation fights for. The partnership has already raised more than USD 5 million.
Unicef ♡ UNIQLO In October 2012, UNIQLO launched the “Clothes for Smiles” program whereby they raised USD10 million through the sales of two of their products to ‘give back’ to various programs that bring ‘hopes and dreams to children’s futures’. Half of that sum was given to UNICEF to support sanitation and hygiene projects in schools around Asia.
Unicef ♡ Primark In July, UNICEF and the Irish clothing giant announced the launch of a three-year partnership, whereby Primark has committed $6 million to support UNICEF’s work. USD4.5 million will go towards funding an education program for vulnerable children in Cambodia, where the company works with 21 factories for the manufacture of their clothes. The other USD1.5 million will go towards UNICEF’s worldwide emergency response operations.
Some might lament that these companies are not actually working enough to improve the life of employees working along the industry’s supply chain or are even buying off their negative practices by giving to a social-good organisation. Either way, recognizing that they can use their brand, reach and success to do something positive in the world is already a good step. Through the partnerships, UNICEF can benefit from significant funding and can increase the reach of their communication. In return, the brands gain goodwill among employees, customers and their community at large.
The IUCN —International Union for Conservation of Nature
Around the world, human activity puts a strain on the planet’s natural resources and wildlife. The IUCN strives to protect nature by raising awareness and carrying out conservation projects.
Lacoste chose to join the IUCN Save our Species programme, to support their work in raising awareness for endangered species. At the Paris Fashion week in early 2018, Lacoste introduced a limited-edition polo collection whereby the iconic crocodile logo was replaced by images of ten of the world’s most threatened species. The number of shirts produced for each species equalled the number of animals known to remain in the wild.
This stylish, limited edition collection generated significant media coverage and the polos sold out within 24 hours(and soon after were offered on ebay as collector items). The campaign was a tremendous success both for Lacoste and the IUCN. 1775 shirts were made, with half of profits going to the IUCN’s conservation efforts, and the other half going towards raising awareness for the cause and the Save Our Species programme.
Although the collaboration does not directly relate to the fashion supply chain, the production-consumption model that drives our economies definitely affects our nature and wildlife indirectly. The campaign demonstrated how, if well executed, a business can leverage its image and resources to raise awareness and financial support for NGOs while also gaining customer respect and loyalty.
There are a variety of ways that fashion brands and retailers can engage with NGOs beyond pure donations: from sponsorship, licensing, co-development of products, sharing of resources, to other cause-related marketing activities. To benefit both cause and the brand, the partnership must be based on trust, built on common vision and values, and leverage the knowledge, creativity and resources from both parties.