Cause Related

June is Pride Month–a celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community that began in 1969 after the Stonewall riots, a series of gay liberation protests, and has since spread far beyond the US. Beyond highlighting the countless achievements of this community, as well as the challenges it still faces, the month-long event offers brands the opportunity to underscore their support for LGBTQ+ rights. By embracing festivals and events throughout the month, and aligning themselves with teams, leagues, and influencers to promote inclusivity, these brands are demonstrating their enduring commitment to diversity. Here’s a snapshot of a few prominent inclusion campaigns that brands have activated in the last year.

In October 2022, adidas–a longtime global leader among sports brands that ranks #2 on our platform for its contributions to LGBTQ+ causes–championed equality and acceptance for all through football, the world’s most popular sport. The brand collaborated with four Premier League teams–Fulham, Leeds United, Manchester United, and Arsenal FC–to create a special apparel collection for each, designed to promote and raise awareness for LGBTQ+ rights.

Thus far this month, numerous brands have partnered with Major League Baseball–the only major U.S. pro sport currently in regular season–to support the LGBTQ+ community. The Milwaukee Brewers celebrated Pride Night on June 7th, offering fans a special pride ticket package that included a Brewers Pride t-shirt sponsored by Aurora Health Care. On June 10th, the San Francisco Giants partnered with biopharma company Gilead to gift Pride jerseys to the first 20K fans that entered Oracle Park, whose scoreboard will display Pride colors through June. The same day, the Tampa Bay Rays and Chevrolet distributed Pride Day coozies bearing the slogan, “Baseball is for Everyone.”

Further north, the New York Mets joined forces with software company Justworks on June 16th to give away rainbow-hued Pride hand fans to all fans in attendance. By month’s end, 29 of the MLB’s 30 teams (minus the Texas Rangers) will have showcased their support of the LGBTQ+ community with Pride Month activations.

As Earth Day approaches on April 22nd, environmentally conscious individuals worldwide are continuing to raise awareness. It is worth examining how brands are taking action in the area of sustainability, which is gaining more attention as environmental responsibility becomes increasingly urgent.

More than 480 brands and over 330 properties have an Environmental Cause asset, with Construction & Industrial, Nonprofits, Charities & Associations, Utilities, Apparel & Accessories, and Auto topping the list of most active categories. Coca-Cola, adidas, Anheuser-Busch, Waste Management, Budweiser, and Ball Corporation lead the growing roster of brands (in that order) investing most in these assets.

Coca-Cola has an Environmental Cause asset with more than 12 properties, and activates these sponsorships with branded recycling bins in stadiums including the American Airlines Center in Dallas and Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies. In Spain, the beverage giant launched its #TogetherForRecycling campaign last September with Sevilla’s two biggest soccer rivals, Real Betis and Sevilla FC, partnering for the Nocturnal Race of Sevilla to promote environmental protection.

adidas partners with 11 properties in this type of asset. As part of the extension of its partnership with Arsenal FC to provide the team with playing and training kits, announced last September, the brand will also support Arsenal’s sustainability strategy by aiming to replace virgin polyester with recycled polyester in adidas products by 2024.

Anheuser-Busch collaborates with the New York Giants, New York Jets, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Padres, New England Patriots, and MLB on a range of environmental initiatives, including:

  • “Break a Bat, Plant a Tree” with the Arizona Diamondbacks: Every time a Diamondbacks pitcher breaks a bat, Budweiser and the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation makes a contribution to provide trees to the local community.
  • Recycle for a chance to win prizes with the Washington Nationals: Fans return their empty cans and bottles to one of A-B’s reverse vending machines to score a chance to win tickets to a future Nationals game.

Environmental Cause assets engaged 3.4M users across all social media with 120 unique posts in the last 12 months. The most engaged post–on Instagram by football platform zujuGP and Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s most followed person across all social media–racked up total engagement of 3M.

Earlier this week, Inter Miami CF launched the club’s adidas One Planet jersey with a striking photo of a woman wearing the shirt underwater alongside a hammerhead shark, to promote the positive impact of responsible plastic use on the world’s oceans. The team will wear the limited edition jersey on April 22nd in its matchup against the Houston Dynamo to celebrate Earth Day.

Pro sports venues are also expanding their focus on sustainability. Austin FC prioritized public transit accessibility when selecting the site for the team’s Q2 Stadium, and the city is using a $460M mobility bond to build a new train station adjacent to the property. The $25M McKalla Station will open ahead of the 2024 MLS season and is expected to increase the percentage of fans–currently just 8%–who take public transit to games. Meanwhile, the developers of the New York Islanders’ UBS Arena invested in a new $105M Long Island Rail Road stop–the first in almost 50 years and unveiled last October–to make both the venue and a nearby shopping district more accessible.

Cause-related sponsorships–mutually beneficial collaborations between brands and nonprofits–are enjoying a resurgence after the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset in 2020.  

These initiatives increased 21% in 2021, when more than 1,000 new brands entered the space, eager to benefit a cause through a partnership campaign. These deals have held steady through 2022, with nearly 3,500 brands and 1,700 properties participating in a cause-related sponsorship in 2022.

Categories most active in cause-related sponsorships in 2022:

  • Financial (11%)
  • Nonprofits, Charities, Associations (11%)
  • Healthcare (9%)
  • Auto (6%)
  • Insurance (5%)

Most Active Major Pro Sports Teams

  • Golden State Warriors (50+)
  • Philadelphia Eagles (40+)
  • Philadelphia Phillies (40+)
  • Miami Heat (35+)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (30+)

Top Cause-Related Initiatives:

  • Youth Foundations
  • Health Issues
  • Education
  • Military/First Responders
  • Environmental

Three high-profile brands took center stage with their cause-related partnerships in 2022:

adidas: The German sportswear giant takes the top spot with nearly 45 cause-related initiatives this year, focused primarily on environmental programs. The brand’s “Run for the Oceans” campaign was arguably its splashiest, with the company removing one plastic bottle from beaches and coastal communities for every 10 minutes a person ran between May 23 and June 8, 2022, tracked on the adidas Running app. To bolster awareness of the campaign, the German brand partnered with Major League Soccer and other sports organizations, as well as celebrities like Stefanos Tsisipas and Karlie Kloss.

Coca-Cola: Landing in second place with over 40 cause-related campaigns this year,  the beverage colossus partnered with teams including Real Betis, Sevilla FC, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Tampa Bay Rays to promote recycling of their Coca-Cola cans and bottles.

Nike: Third on the list with over 30 cause-related sponsorships, the Beaverton, Oregon-based sportswear titan channeled its efforts into youth-centric causes, partnering with teams like the New York Jets, Chicago White Sox, and Detroit Pistons to engage local kids in sports-related programs in the teams’ home cities.


Organizations & Groups

August 17, 2022

National Nonprofit Day was August 17th–offering an opportunity to dig into the category and discover which brands are using sponsorships to make an impact.

With more than 20 deals, Army ROTC leads the pack in number of sponsorships within the massive category, which numbers over 4,500 brands. All of Army ROTC’s deals are with colleges: it currently partners with four schools in Buffalo, its top market.  

Meanwhile, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), American Red Cross, Be The Match, and Goodwill lead the list (in that order) of the most searched brands by sponsorship executives on the SponsorUnited platform in 2022. Three of these five brands also make the top 10 in terms of sponsorship deals: AARP in third place, Goodwill in sixth, and the American Red Cross in ninth.

The category relies heavily on social and digital media as its leading platforms for sponsorship and media buys, often on the websites and social media pages of schools. Nonprofits have over 4,590 social media deals totaling more than 28,000 posts, across which engagement stands at a staggering 57 million-plus. Six social posts have garnered over 1 million engagements; UNICEF’s branded post with Millie Bobby Brown tops that list at over 3.7 million,1.5 million higher than the second-place post–also UNICEF, with David Beckham.

July proved to be a popular month for nonprofits to ink sponsorship deals:

  • The Cyrille Regis Legacy Trust–which continues the community work that the late striker championedwas named the official charity partner of West Bromwich Albion Football Club, Regis’s former team. The club will also make a donation to the trust for every away shirt sold.
  • The Big Help Project–an award-winning, U.K.-based charity that helps people overcome poverty–announced a deal to have its logo on the jersey of the Wigan Athletic Football Club for the 2022/2023 season. The brands will also join forces to promote the charity's work across England.

The Special Olympics formed a three-year global partnership with Allison+Partners. The marketing and communications agency will support the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual and physical disabilities with an employee volunteer engagement program, as well as PR services to advance inclusion efforts.

Organization & Groups Category

Cause-related sponsorship campaigns in the NHL grew 23% this year over last–placing the league second only to the NFL in activating community/cause-related assets in professional sports. Following the recent release of SponsorUnited’s NHL 2021-2022 Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report, here’s a quick look at the biggest cause-related sponsorship takeaways this season.

More than 320+ brands activated NHL community/cause-related campaigns–led by Scotiabank, which launched multiple campaigns with the NHL and four Canadian teams (the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets, and Edmonton Oilers). Other brands with the highest frequency of these campaigns were as follows:

  1. TD Bank
  1. EverFi
  1. Ford Motor Company
  1. Northwell Health
  1. Bauer Hockey
  1. Chase
  1. SAP
  1. adidas
  1. Tim Hortons
  1. Kaiser Permanente
  1. Esso
  1. Boeing
  1. Budweiser
  1. Stop & Shop
  1. Dunkin'
  1. National Grid
  1. Love Your Melon
  1. Toyota
  1. BMO Harris Bank

Financial brands led all industries, overtaking Healthcare brands as the most active supporter of causes. Insurance, Technology, and Auto (in that order) rounded out the top-five industry categories, which alone contributed to almost half of all NHL cause-related sponsorship campaigns.

To learn more, check out the SponsorUnited NHL 2021-2022 Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report at

Cause Related Marketing

June Is Pride Month

June 23, 2022

Brands are creating activations to highlight their support of the LGBTQI+ community during pride month. Check out some of the brands that have activated in a big way.

Procter & Gamble (P&G)Orlando HealthThe Pride Center of MarylandAdobeParamount+Pennsylvania LotteryIndependence Blue CrossHornitos TequilaCity FurnitureCapital OneTD BankAthlete AllyCintronPublixPayPalESPN PlusAlly FinancialadidasVisit Washington CountyVerify This

Some of the most interesting and unique activations this year have been with the use of digital assets. During Coachella, Absolut created a three-floor installation in the Metaverse. ​​On floor three, attendees could explore the rainbow-themed Pride room, where wearables were given to those who posted about their experience on their own social media.

Earlier this month Bud Light was a presenting sponsor of Pride Night in a game at Minute Maid Park where the Houston Astros played the New York Mets. The Seattle Sounders partnered with Starbucks to promote Pride awareness throughout the month of June via their social media channels.

Environmental Causes

April 21, 2022

Over 280 brands across all properties in the last 12 months have signed partnerships with the goal of supporting environmental causes. Not surprisingly, the Construction & Industrial and Utilities categories are the top two supporting this cause respectively.

Which other brands support the cause and how are they doing so?

adidas leads the way with over 15 deals supporting Environmental Causes while Coca-Cola has the second most deals with a total over ten deals. Coke has partnered with properties in more than five different leagues supporting this initiative. Within these partnerships, Coca-Cola can be seen on the video board or concourse throughout the stadiums urging fans to recycle.

Waste Management, the top brand in the Construction & Industrial category, has over five deals within the NHL & MLB. A partner of the Montreal Canadiens, Waste Management sponsors the “Goal is Green” campaign for the team. The brands’s green initiatives are within four main areas: biodegradation, composting & recycling, energy saving, and transportation.

A few other brands have had notable sustainability partnerships. Constellation Energy & the Chicago Blackhawks teamed up to give the first 10,000 fans in attendance to a game a reusable metal straw. Maple Leaf Foods partnered with the Toronto Raptors for every Raptors block on the court, the team and Maple Leaf Foods will plant 50 trees.

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