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Reason to Believe
In the world of cause marketing, “Believe in Heroes” occupies a special niche. Created in 2010 by Acosta Sales & Marketing, the national campaign unites grocers, top national brands and shoppers to raise funds for Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), a Jacksonville, Fla.-based nonprofit organization that aids injured service members.
From Sept. 11 through Veterans Day (Nov. 11), Believe in Heroes enables Americans to show their support and appreciation for veterans by grocery shopping. Participating brands offer downloadable coupons in a free-standing insert (FSI) circulated to millions of households nationwide. Shoppers can also download digital coupons online in English and Spanish, including load-to-card coupons through SmartSource Xpress. Grocers support the cause with special signage and point-of-purchase materials, and help raise funds through checkout donations and such other promotional initiatives as in-store circulars. Consumers can also make direct donations or buy licensed Believe in Heroes merchandise.
“Acosta’s vision was to harness the collective power of brands and retailers and channel it to support WWP and make a positive impact on the new generation of injured service members who have made significant sacrifices to preserve our freedom and protect our country,” notes Chad Grenier, EVP, retail marketing services at Shopper Solutions North America, Jacksonville-based Acosta’s newly formed retail marketing agency specializing in purchase design, which has managed and refined the program since 2013.
Shopper Solutions’ brief is to develop both the national program and retailer-centric programs designed to spur measurable sales and donations. The agency implements unique, customized programs that create purchase influence through experiential and event marketing, brand ambassador-led product demonstrations, shopper-centric platforms, multibrand programs, and digital/social/mobile marketing.
An example of Shopper Solutions’ innovative approach to the campaign is the first-ever Believe in Heroes Facebook application, “which enabled shoppers to learn more about warriors’ personal stories, download coupons, interact with participating brands and retailers, participate in a challenge to earn badges, and more,” says Grenier.
As a result of such careful stewardship, the program has grown substantially since its advent. In 2010, backed by more than a dozen well-known brands and just one regional grocery retailer, the campaign raised approximately $200,000. By contrast, for the 2013 campaign, 70 percent of all U.S. grocery stores supported the cause. To date, Believe in Heroes has raised $16 million for critical veteran programs provided by WWP.
“The success of the Believe in Heroes campaign is due in large part to our unique ability to connect CPG companies with grocery retailers and their shoppers to drive millions in incremental sales to support WWP,” explains Grenier. “Most importantly, Believe in Heroes has united America’s most beloved brands, grocery retailers and consumers to help make a difference in the lives of our nation’s wounded veterans.”
This massive undertaking hasn’t gone unrecognized by the organization that benefits from it. “The efforts and support of Acosta Sales & Marketing and the dozens of brands and retailers that participate in the Believe in Heroes campaign have afforded Wounded Warrior Project the opportunity to further our national awareness and serve even more injured service members,” affirms Brea Kratzert, WWP strategic partnership director.
As for what the future holds for the campaign, Grenier notes: “As consumer shopping behavior changes and social media and digital engagement affect how consumers interact with brands, it is critical for our campaign to evolve as well. As increasing charities compete and sophisticated shoppers become increasingly discerning about the causes they support, Believe in Heroes and similar grocer-based programs will have to create compelling strategies to reach shoppers across the entire path to purchase — motivating them to participate and also reminding them in-store to follow through with those purchase decisions.”
Checking Out for Charity
Checkout donations are generating hundreds of millions of funds for charity, according to the findings of America’s Checkout Charity Champions, a recent study from the Rye, N.Y.-based Cause Marketing Forum Inc.
A group of 63 million-dollar-plus, corporate-backed campaigns raised more than $358 million in 2012 (the last year for which figures are available), according to the study, which also notes that large charity checkout programs have raised more than $2.3 billion over the past 30 years.
Most of these initiatives took place at brick-and-mortar retailers, with the largest being a six-week in-store Miracle Balloon campaign by Walmart and Sam’s Club, which raised $41.6 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since 1987, the annual campaign at the sister banners has raised more than $556.8 million for the cause.
Among the other top 10 checkout donation campaigns of 2012, ranked by amount raised, were the Costco Wholesale/May Icon campaign ($14.4 million to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals via paper icon sales); the Safeway/Breast Cancer Awareness fundraiser ($12.4 million to hundreds of breast cancer organizations); the Safeway/People with Disabilities campaign ($9.2 million to Easter Seals, Special Olympics, Rebuilding Together and other charities); the Safeway/Prostate Cancer Awareness and Research campaign ($9.2 million to The Prostate Cancer Foundation); the Kmart/March of Dimes fundraising campaign ($8 million to the March of Dimes) and the Safeway/Muscular Dystrophy Association ($7.6 million) to the Muscular Dystrophy Association).
Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway had the most campaigns in the top 10 list: four efforts raising a total of $38.4 million-plus to aid various health-related causes.
“American companies are bonding with consumers, turning on employees and raising big bucks for worthy groups by requesting donations at the point of sale,” notes Cause Marketing Forum President David Hessekiel. “This study is the first to recognize the leading programs, to measure how much they raise, and to share best practices that will help companies and causes produce even more successful point-of-sale fundraising campaigns in the future.”
Beyond the campaigns highlighted in the study, however, Hessekiel estimated there were hundreds of smaller campaigns rolled out by businesses large and small, each of which raised thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
America’s Charity Checkout Champions also includes advice from point-of-sale donation experts on how to create successful cause marketing programs. Among the tips offered in the report were choose the right charity partner, engage and educate front-line employees to build their confidence in asking for donations, and offer consumers incentives for giving.
While compiling the report in the spring of 2013, Cause Marketing Forum looked through public data to find the largest point-of-sale donation programs, and asked companies and nonprofit organizations to provide campaign details. To qualify for inclusion, campaigns had to invite consumers to make donations at point of sale and had to have raised at least $1 million in consumer donations in 2012. Only U.S. programs were studied.
‘A Vision’ to Save Sight
Beyond in-store campaigns, grocers across the United States are raising funds for organizations near and dear to their hearts. One such effort is “Una Visión Para El Futuro” (A Vision for the Future), an annual benefit in support of Columbia, Md.-based nonprofit Foundation Fighting Blindness, chaired for the three years of its existence by Jason Ferreira, of New Hyde Park, N.Y., a foundation board member and Foodtown VP and general manager, as well as the father of a 3-year-old son, JJ, with a rare genetic disease, Leber congenital amaurosis, that causes severe loss of vision at birth.
Since JJ’s diagnosis in 2010, Ferreira, a first-generation Dominican-American, and his wife, Jennifer, have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for research that could save their son’s sight. (The Ferreiras are pictured at left.)
Benefits Fund Research
The most recent benefit, held Jan. 16 at Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows Park in the New York borough of Queens, raised $466,000 toward research into preventions, treatments and cures for blinding retinal degenerative diseases like macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa that affect more than 10 million Americans. Also at the event, Michael Stolarz, president and COO of Iselin, N.J.-based Allegiance Retail Services, received the Visionary Award for community involvement.
“Progress in gene therapy and stem cell-based clinical trials gives us hope for a brighter future for JJ and the millions of other families in America affected by blinding retinal diseases,” notes Ferreira. “Leaders coming together for this important cause is a true testament to the giving spirit of our industry.”
Over the past three years, A Vision for the Future has raised more than $1.1 million. The 2014 benefit’s Visionary Sponsors included Acosta Grocery, Advantage Sales and Marketing, Bozzuto’s Inc., C&S Produce, C&S Wholesale Grocers, CBA Industries Inc., Earthbound Farm, the Ferreiras, Florida’s Natural, JOH, Joshen Paper & Packaging, Key Food, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo Warehouse Sales, Porky Products, and RDD Associates.