Successful Cause-Related Marketing Partnering as a Means to Aligning Corporate and Philanthropic Goals: An Empirical Study

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Corporate social responsibility has received considerable attention within both the academic and business communities. Cause-Related Marketing (CRM) has evolved as an area of social responsibility that allows firms to link their philanthropic activities with the strategic marketing goals of the firm. Specifically, CRM occurs when a firm makes an offer to contribute a portion of the proceeds of a consumer purchase of the firm’s products or services to a charitable cause.

Academic research into CRM has covered a broad landscape. Studies include: potential benefits to the brand; consumer behavior surrounding CRM offers; brand/cause alliances, and; potential benefits to the cause. Additionally, numerous theories have been used to explain various CRM activities. However, each theory that has been presented has been aimed towards explaining specific phenomena, and an all-encompassing theory to explain the antecedents and consequences of successful CRM partnerships has been elusive.

The purpose of this study is to use associative learning theory as a framework for understanding the antecedents and consequences of successful CRM partnerships for both brand and firm. Associative learning theory develops principles such as, belongingness and reputation that set the foundation for incorporating partnership compatibility and long-term brand/cause relationships as antecedents that should link the relationship to benefits for both brand and firm. These benefits, increased word-of-mouth, improved image for the firm, consumer attitudes towards the brand, and greater purchase likelihood, thus form the desired consequences completing the framework.

The significance of this research is that it introduces one theory to explain what attributes of a CRM partnership lead to the best outcomes. Additionally, this study introduces word-of-mouth promotion as a desired outcome of CRM. This study was conducted by asking respondents to read one of 4 scenarios (2x2 factorial design) and then answer a series of questions. Data was collected by an online firm to ensure greater generalizability, and was subjected to AMOS 6 for analysis. Hypotheses were then tested using the Kruskal-Wallis non-parametric test.

The results indicate that the overall model of antecedents and consequences of CRM relationships has excellent fit, and both antecedents, relationship compatibility and longevity of relationship, are indicators of the strength of the brand/cause relationship. Additionally, increased positive Word-of-mouth and improved brand image are fully supported as consequences of a strong brand/cause relationship. Finally, improved firm image and increased purchase likelihood are partially supported as consequences.


Atlantic Marketing Association Annual Conference


Salem, MA