RED is a organization focused on fighting AIDS in Africa that shows real smarts for harnessing powerful corporate sponsorships. RED was launched by Bono and Bobby Shriver specifically to enlist private sector support for this cause.
Here's an example. The Gap is introducing a line of clothes and accessories that will deliver an AIDS awareness message, with 50% of proceeds from sales being donated to RED. The line will be promoted via ads in mags like Vanity Fair, Vogue, O:The Oprah Magazine and The New Yorker (I counted 27 placements in the October 9 issue of The New Yorker alone, including the inside cover spread, the back cover and the inside back cover … you simply can't BE in the Eastern Establishment and not know about RED … hell, I've seen the ads in New Zealand!). The ads, photographed by THE Annie Liebovitz, feature celebs like Chris Rock wearing the garb, with copy reinforcing the AIDS message. What a terrific package.
Here's another example, as discussed by OnPhilanthropy. AMEX has introduced a RED card, with 1% of purchases through the card donated to RED's Global Fund.
Other RED partners include Motorola, Converse and Giorgio Armani. Bono and Shriver know their marketing! In Britain, where RED products have been available since February, proceeds from cause partners are already at $10 million, twice the level of donations from companies and individuals from 2002 to 2006.
I say: Watch and study RED for an ongoing tutorial in consumer product-based cause marketing. Start by reading this excellent RED overview from the NYTimes.
For more insight into the fast-spreading, potent — but often mis-practiced — art of cause marketing, you might want to follow the blog of Joe Waters at Selfish Giving.