When A&E Network launched its “Recovery Project” cause-branding campaign in 2008, its executives, along with those at agency partner Civic Entertainment Group, had to overcome the challenge of de-stigmatizing addiction. Thanks to their integrated marketing and communications efforts, the campaign has been a success thus far and is showing no signs of stopping—a testament of the following cause-branding best practices.
• Make sure the cause is compatible with the brand: “Most important is identifying a clear link between the brand and the cause and to design the campaign to play to the strength of the brand,” says Seth Webb, director of special projects at Civic Entertainment Group. “It can’t be artificial, and it has to make sense.”
John Hartinger, vice president of integrated marketing for A&E, seconds this. “The first thing to consider when planning a cause-branding campaign is that you have to start from an authentic place,” he says. “It has to speak to who you are and what you know.”
• Humanize the subject: “For any PR story, you want to get at the human element, and that was at the core of our campaign,” Webb says. “We identified people in all 50 states through working with our national partners [including Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence] just to find people who really personified successful recovery.”
• Have a truly collaborative agency-client relationship: “Having a close collaboration is key,” Webb says. “We built this campaign [with A&E] before we ever got to the execution phase. That process was an integrated team effort; we worked across A&E Network with the marketing department, the press office, programming and community affairs. That’s also a reflection of how well the cause connects with the brand.”