Nike’s Corporate Interest Lives Strong: A Case of Cause-Related Marketing and Leveraging in Sport Marketing

Colleen McGlone
Nathan Martin

The use of cause-related marketing (CRM) in sport appears to be increasing in popularity. These campaigns often create win-win situations for all parties involved. However, utilizing CRM campaigns in the sport arena does not come without risk and may ultimately limit the return on investment (ROI) for which many corporations seek. There are many illustrations of CRM campaigns in sport, one of which is the Live Strong campaign. Through this campaign, the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) has attracted a great deal of attention and media exposure creating both increased awareness and additional resources for the LAF. In May of 2004, Lance Armstrong approached long time sponsorship partner Nike, Inc. to assist him with the launch of the Live Strong fundraising campaign. Live Strong centers on people showing their support for the LAF by buying and wearing a yellow wristband. Nike agreed to support the then five-time Tour de France winner, ultimately providing the financial resources to underwrite the production and distribution of the first five million yellow Live Strong wristbands, as well as a provide a one million dollar cash gift directly to the LAF. Since the Live Strong campaign’s inception, over 47 million wristbands have been sold to benefit the LAF. This case study demonstrates the use of CRM using the Live Strong campaign as an applied model. The case illustrates some of the potential benefits and risks involved in CRM, as well as addresses ethical dilemmas that may arise when these campaigns are being considered by both corporations and non-profit organizations.