June 9th, 2010
04:37 PM GMT
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When environmental campaigner Lewis Pugh swam across a lake on Mount Everest recently to raise awareness about global warming, he and his team had a small but prominent logo of a large South African supermarket chain, Pick n Pay, branded on their clothes.

Corporate sponsorship, especially of sports and arts events has generally been on the increase, says communications expert Victor Dlamini. He told me that despite the global downturn over the past two years corporate sponsorship has been "one of the few areas where at least there has been no decline, even if the growth has been minimal."

Pugh couldn’t have organized his Everest adventure without the support of the sponsors like Pick n Pay and SAP, the other sponsor. The companies paid $100,000 all in all to align their brands with Pugh’s message about global warming.

Gareth Ackerman, who heads up Pick n Pay, said it made business sense because "food safety, food security, is absolutely impacted by climate change and if we don’t look after food security, there’s no food in our stores. Prices go up. It’s not great for any part of the supply chain and we have to look out for that supply chain."

Pick n Pay has also contracted Pugh to speak at schools in South Africa about his trip and the issues around global warming.

As marketing budgets are slashed due to the tougher economic times, businesses try to get more “bang for their buck” as they look for more innovative and cheaper ways to sell their message.

So "cause-related" marketing is gaining popularity says Dlamini. He said: "Increasingly a lot of South African companies are beginning to say, ‘we care’ about certain community issues such as education, refurbishing sports fields, sponsoring the arts, and, interestingly enough, saving the environment."

So for modest amounts and the right branding, big companies can create opportunities for people like Lewis Pugh and they get across the message that they care.

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