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Straight to the cause: sponsors starting to evade official charity pipelines.

Establishing corporate partnerships has long been a way for charities and for-profit companies to leverage brand appeal and enhance their marketability. With an increasingly participatory public, however, the game is beginning to change.

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Instead of partnering with charities, brands like Prilosec OTC and Pepsi are removing nonprofits from the equation and going directly to consumers through microsponsorship campaigns.

Procter & Gamble launched its microsponsorship though Prilosec this past December, according to Carlos Taveras, communications manager for the anti-heartburn medication. The brand typically sponsors the NFL and NASCAR, but chose to this time sponsor the people who use Prilosec or suffer from heartburn, instead of the things they like to be a part of, such as sports.

"Heartburn prevents people from doing a lot of the things they like to do," Taveras said. "Now we can sponsor them so they can do the things that they want to do. It just seems like the right thing (for us) to do."

The campaign, which deems Prilosec OTC "the sponsor of everything," asks the public to apply for grants to help them to do the things they enjoy doing, from knitting, to playing guitar to eating chocolate.

The candidates create a video and profile along with their application, and post it on www.officialsponsor.com, for judges to view. The public can cast votes. The first winner was picked this past March, and two more winners will be sponsored later this year, Taveras said. Thousands of people have applied for the grants since the campaign launched.

Pepsi's Refresh Project donates grants directly to communities. Grants are available in the amounts of $5,000, $25,000, $50,000 and $250,000. Pepsi accepts 1,000 ideas from the public each month and awards $1.3 million monthly to 32 recipients. The idea proposals are posted online where voters can pick their favorites, and then Pepsi judges weigh in on who should receive the money. The grants are available for individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations, as long as they are making a difference in the community.

Sebastian Buck, director of corporate strategy at Pepsi Refresh Project's social responsibility partner, GOOD in Los Angeles, Calif., said the campaign was created to encourage innovation.

"If a 14-year-old kid in Chicago has a great idea, and gets the right resources and support, he might be able to achieve something amazing," Buck said. "That is the benefit of this."

Pepsi is funding the project through its own marketing budget, and the campaign will continue throughout the year, Buck said. Selected winners get financial resources, attention and exposure and a grant manager from GOOD to help properly budget the project.

"The project is all about taking the energy, spirit and optimism of people out there in the world, and getting the resources to make them happen," he said.

More than 400,000 consumers have registered with www.refresheverything.com and at deadline, the ideas on the site have received almost 3 million votes.

Giving cash directly to the public instead of partnering with charities gives Prilosec different types of opportunities, Taveras said. "The people are the difference," he said.

"When you are sponsoring a nonprofit it's sponsoring an entity, the difference is there. With the nonprofit organization you are essentially limited in scope."

Pepsi went the microsponsorship route to open the doors for ideas from anyone, anywhere in the U.S., as opposed to sticking with just one cause, Buck said. "There is no monopoly on good ideas," he said.
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Author:Rogers, Kate
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Date:May 15, 2010
Words:581
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