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Events Fundraising: Should you promote your cause or the experience?


It’s been interesting to see the various promotional material for this year’s Cancer Research UK Race for Life.

They are firmly focused on promoting the social side of the events and ask people to ‘Sign up for amazing moments’ with the ‘help beat cancer’ given only a small byline.

The photos are all positive images of ladies on the walk and sharing fun/emotional times together.  This is the main selling point of the event and the fact that it also happens to raise money for CRUK is almost a secondary concern in the marketing.

The idea of selling a shared experience around your audience and market is also a feature of a recent essay by Mark Earl’s over at WARC.  Mark explores why marketers need to reconsider their audience’s needs and includes this insightful quote from American film-maker Lance Weiler:

“More than 70% of the value of entertainment content is to be found in the services and conversations co-created around the core of the content itself.  It’s what the audience members do, say and create (socialise) around the product you make that creates the real value for everyone.  Your product and your marketing are primarily of value in so far as they create an excuse for the audience to ‘socialise’ around.”

Race for Life is certainly a product that gives people an excuse to socialise round  and the marketing clearly reflects this.

It continues to be the biggest mass participation fundraising event in the UK and this shows the success of this marketing strategy.  However there are a couple of inherent risks in focusing mainly on the experience and not the cause as much.

Firstly, there isn’t necessarily a huge amount of brand loyalty and so if someone comes along with a better/new experience or product then people are likely to move on to this.

Many people feel that they are buying an experience and so feel less obligation to also raise sponsorship at the same time.  This is reflected in the high rates of non-payers that CRUK have experienced and is the result of focusing their marketing on the experience and the cause.

This pay-off between selling the experience and selling your cause is something that all event fundraisers need to be aware of when marketing an event.  Doing everything you can to enhance the participants experience and making it easy for them to share and socialise round the event will help ensure it's success.  However, don't completely forget to remind people why they are taking part and build your key messages into the social experience.