A marketing giant is joining a publisher, a foundation and celebrities, among others, to fight hunger in the United States in a fresh example of an increasingly popular trend known as cause marketing — that is, seeking to do well by doing good.

The partners in the initiative, called Run 10 Feed 10, are Unilever, on behalf of four brands, Degree Women, Ragú, Simple and Vaseline; Women’s Health magazine, published by Rodale; the Feed Foundation; and Crowdrise, a Web site that uses social networking and crowdsourcing to help raise money for charities.

They are being joined by film and television stars including Elizabeth Banks, Joel McHale, Leelee Sobieski, Kerry Washington and Allison Williams. The celebrities appear in commercials and video clips promoting Run 10 Feed 10, which will be shown on television, online, on screens in taxis and on tablet computers.

Women’s Health came up with the idea for Run 10 Feed 10 and is spending $500,000 to $1 million to get the initiative up and running. The magazine took the idea to Unilever, which agreed to be the “presenting” sponsor.

Other marketers that are sponsoring elements of Run 10 Feed 10 include Forevermark diamonds, sold by De Beers; the Gap division of Gap Inc.; Starbucks; and Summer’s Eve, sold by the C.B. Fleet Company.

The goal of the program is signaled by its name: Each person who registers to run in 10-kilometer races to be held in New York and 10 other cities from Sept. 23 through Oct. 13, will result in donations through the foundation of 10 meals to people in need in the runner’s community. Those who cannot run in the 11 races can also take part by using a Web site, walkjogrun.net, to plot routes where they live.

The initiative will have an extensive presence online and in social media. The online aspects will include a Web site, run10feed10.com, along with womenshealthmag.com and crowdrise.com.

In social media, plans call for posts about Run 10 Feed 10 on the Facebook and Twitter pages of participants in the races as they cross the finish lines. Women’s Health will also enlist its Facebook fan page and Twitter feed in the initiative.

Two siblings of Women’s Health at Rodale, Men’s Health and Runner’s World magazines, will also be part of Run 10 Feed 10, promoting it in print, online and on Facebook.

“The buzz in social media” around a brand’s support of a cause can create “a halo effect” to burnish its image, said Jonah Sachs, chief executive at Free Range Studios and the author of a new book, “Winning the Story Wars” (Harvard Business Review Press).

Cause marketing fits with stories about what Mr. Sachs calls “the hero’s journey,” but rather than “introducing the product as hero, you show the audience how to be the hero,” he said.

“Their story becomes part of your story,” Mr. Sachs added. “Thousands of people take pictures and upload them to Instagram, saying, ‘Here I am at the marathon.'”

And cause marketing “helps overcome the first sin of marketing,” Mr. Sachs said, which is “narcissism: ‘We beat our chests and people will be impressed.'”

A first-time cause marketer, the Coty Prestige division of Coty, owned by Joh. A. Benckiser, is introducing a campaign, carrying the theme “Love the ocean,” that affiliates one of its fragrances, Davidoff Cool Water, with the Pristine Seas expeditions undertaken by the National Geographic Society. The campaign will encourage donations through social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

“For the past 24 years, we have been embracing the power of the ocean,” said Jonathan Reeve, international marketing director at Coty Prestige. “Now, we’ve realized the ocean is in danger.”

Unilever, by contrast, has long been active in cause marketing, and in November 2010 adopted what is known as the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan as a road map for a decade’s worth of efforts in areas like health, nutrition, hygiene and the environment.

“We love the freshness of this approach” by Women’s Health, said Christine Cea, senior director for marketing communications at the Unilever office in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and how it fits with “hunger-fighting initiatives” by Unilever foundations.

“We recognize our responsibility as a company is not just what we can do, but what people can do,” Ms. Cea said. Run 10 Feed 10 “provides levels of engagement among consumers from low to high.”

Among the steps being taken by Unilever to become the presenting sponsor is to buy 14 advertising pages in six to eight issues of Women’s Health this year, at an estimated cost of $1 million.

Unilever will also supply Ragú sauce for a “celebrity pasta carb-loading dinner” on Sept. 22, the night before the race in New York, said Laura Frerer-Schmidt, publisher of Women’s Health.

“A cause is great,” Ms. Frerer-Schmidt said. “You have to make it sexy, too.

“This is a movement,” she added. “And we want consumers to be part of the movement.”

To encourage involvement, Ms. Frerer-Schmidt said, every participant will know how they are giving back. “People,” she said, “especially millennials, want to know where their money is going.”

That is where Crowdrise comes in, said Robert Wolfe, chief executive at Crowdrise in Royal Oak, Mich.

“We at Crowdrise are making the bet that to younger people, the idea of giving back is becoming part of their story,” he said.

“If your friends are doing the Women’s Health run, and they post about it on their Facebook pages, your likelihood of donating goes way up,” he added.

(Source: NYTimes.com, 07/02/12)

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