MS Society & A&W Cause Marketing: Fostering Mutual Benefit & Impact

The Opportunity

A&W and the MS Society of Canada’s “Cruisin’ to End MS” day is an extremely successful ongoing year partnership that has raised over $6.5 million for Multiple Sclerosis and increased awareness about this disease and its high incidence among Canadians.
The initiative is driven by point of sale fundraising in each restaurant as well as a number of other creative, locally developed initiatives. The first three years of the initiative were very successful, with 40% growth year after year. In the following three years leading up to our work, the initiative had started to plateau and the leadership from both organizations engaged us to help them reinvigorate the program and ensure alignment with key stakeholders including both customers and employees.

Insights

In an initial workshop with senior leaders from both organizations, we developed 6 strategic drivers to help guide our work. From the beginning, the partnership was very strong and aligned in their strategy but adding these factors helped provide a sense of direction for the work.

  • Be more strategic with the partnership and initiative
  • Rejuvenate the program together
  • Make a greater impact on ending MS as a result of the partnership and initiative
  • Connect more emotionally with guests, staff and volunteers based on a shared purpose
  • Provide a greater sense of purpose around the initiative
  • Strive for leadership in execution and partnership and provide a roadmap to get there

These strategic drivers provided a framework for our work and ensured that our goals were aligned with those of both A&W and the MS Society.

In addition to holding workshops with key stakeholders and interviews with leadership from both organizations, we also conducted a survey amongst frontline employees to get their opinions of the strengths and weaknesses of the program. This allowed us to quickly identify pain points and areas for improvement. The survey will also serve as a powerful employee engagement benchmarking tool in years to come.

Outcome

Any successful cause marketing campaign has 5 key elements. They should be fun, rewarding, easy, meaningful and authentic. Without any of these elements, engagement in this type of initiative will ultimately fall.
In addition, we helped them to identify 5 shifts that would help move this program from being transactional, to a truly transformational partnership with a common purpose, mutually beneficial activities and shared responsibility.

Impact

In 2016, this initiative won the Sustained Success award from the Sponsorship Marketing Council of Canada. Since implementation, the initiative has been very successful with increased fundraising dollars and engagement on a broader scale than they have ever seen.