Getting value from charity partnerships in the fitness industry

Matthew Coleman is a new partnership developer at the Teenage Cancer Trust, a global leader in the field of young cancer care. The charity works closely with the fitness sector and is the official charity partner of the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon as well as a beneficiary of the Arsenal Football Foundation. Most recently they partnered with Joe Wicks on his successful world record attempt to deliver the largest ever HIIT Class.

We spoke to Matthew about:

  • The benefits of charity partnership
  • How to select the right charity partner
  • How to get the most out of a charity partnership

Why partner with a charity?

A charity partnership can have enormous benefit to a brand, not just the charity. It’s a way to differentiate yourself from your competitors and have a different kind of conversation with your customers. From my perspective, there are three major benefits to charity partnerships:

  • PR and Marketing: The PR and Marketing opportunities from a charity partnership have real value, linking your products and services to a charity allows you to position them differently. Your brand will connect with customers on a deeper level by talking about the impact it is having on people’s lives, rather than just a commercial product or service.
  • Brand Loyalty: A charity partnership helps to encourage brand loyalty from existing and new customers, as they will choose your products or services over others because they like the idea of supporting a cause. Research shows that 80% of consumers are likely to switch brands – equal in quality and price- to the one that supports a charity.For example, with The Body Shop, Teenage Cancer Trust delivered a multi-layered partnership which positively engaged with customers and employees raising over £1million over 2 years. By using simple tactics like dressing up in-store and asking customers to donate at point-of-sale, The Body Shop experienced their best business days. The fancy dress and the good cause gave employees an extra confidence boost when interacting with customers and this boosted sales.
  • Employee Satisfaction: Charity partnerships can have a positive impact on employee satisfaction by keeping employees energised, engaged and enthused. Being involved in charity work and events gives staff opportunities to do more than their day-to-day job and help them feel like they are making a difference. A happy workforce performs better. There also a significant team building benefits. Good causes help galvanise teams, departments and even whole companies.


Getting value from charity partnerships in the fitness industryTeenage Cancer Trust delivered a multi-layered partnership which positively engaged with customers and employees raising over £1million over 2 years


How do you choose your charity?

Consider the experience of the charity – will they be able to deliver on the same scale you are looking for? What resource do they have to help you reach your goals? It’s smart to match the size of the charity to the expectations you have around what support you require.

Also consider your business objectives and how the right charity might be able to support you in achieving them. If you are an operator looking to open five new sites in the next two years in a particular region, work with a charity that operates in your target locations (this could be a National or Regional charity), they will be able to partner with you on PR and marketing ventures. If you’re looking to build your brand, choose a charity that can help you achieve those goals. For example, The Body Shop chose to work with Teenage Cancer Trust because they wanted to start talking to a younger audience. The charity helped them do that.

If you’re looking to build your brand, choose a charity that can help you achieve those goals.

You may want to narrow your search by setting certain criteria. Do this before you invite applications, or start contacting organisations, otherwise you will be creating a lot of work for yourself, as well as a lot of work for charities.

What are the most effective ways you’ve seen charity partnerships working in the fitness industry?

  • Staff fundraising – Not only does this keep staff engaged it also gives them an opportunity to talk to customers or potential customers in a different way.
  • Pennies – This digital fundraising software allows your customers to round up any purchases from goggles to coffees to the nearest pound at any point of sale, or choose to add a donation. It’s a really simple way for companies to deliver impact for charities.
  • Cause Marketing – This joint fundraising and promotional strategy links sales with a charity. You might choose to increase the cost of your monthly membership by £1 and make this a donation, or you may choose to donate a percentage of every sale. This can help to develop brand loyalty and drive sales of a particular product or service.
  • Challenge event sponsorship – Align your brand with a high-profile challenge event and build a training product around it in the lead up. Having a brand presence at these events gives you the right kind of exposure with participants and spectators. Plus, it’s another opportunity for different customer talking points, content creation, and new product development.

How do you get the most out of the partnership with your chosen charity?

Have a very clear plan right from the start. This could be staff engagement, a specific fundraising target, or to give your brand a more human face. Whatever it is, make sure it’s achievable to ensure you maintain company morale.

Get buy-in throughout the company with good internal communications. Ask your charity partner to come in and meet your team and present the vision for the partnership. Ensure all colleagues know what is expected of them and manage expectations around any business impact such as the staffing resource needed for different partnership activities.

Staff engagement, a specific fundraising target, or to give your brand a more human face.

Encourage key personnel to go and view the charity’s work first hand to get an understanding of what you are supporting. Make it fun! Use it as an opportunity to step away from your desk for a few minutes at a time and enjoy it!

Posted in Interviews, The Fitness Network.