You play professional sports. Everyone knows who you are and what you do. They know how much money you make and they see what you are doing on social media. Your brand as a professional athlete is more relevant to your success now than ever before, so make it count for something. Add some social impact to your identity.

Philanthropy is a word that is used often and often misunderstood. The word philanthropy means the “love of humanity”. The first evidence of philanthropy was in in ancient times, when people would complete acts of benevolence to those suffering. In Ancient Greece, one of the world’s earliest democracies, wealthy citizens would show their influence by funding municipal facilities like temples, protective walls, granaries and armories.

Two thousand years later, nonprofits are everywhere and support thousands of different causes. Philanthropy is no longer something you have to do because it looks good or shows your wealth. That’s not authentic and not going to resonate to make any impact. Philanthropy should be something you want to do – something you enjoy doing and something you wake up every morning looking forward to.

Why Should You Incorporate Philanthropy Into Your Brand?

People Will Support Brands that Care About Social Impact

Studies show that 70% of millennials have more brand loyalty and spend more with brands that support meaningful causes. Commonly referred to as cause marketing, giving back has made a significant impact in the business world. According to CauseGood.com, when comparing two brands of equal price and quality, 90% of US shoppers switch to cause branded products, and cause branded products are the number one deciding factor for shoppers globally. 

Engage for Good has collected even more positive statistics on impact of philanthropy and cause marketing on brands. According to their research, cause sponsorship is predicted to reach $2.14 billion in 2018, a projected increase of 4.4% over 2017. When it comes to corporate activism, 86% of consumers believe that companies should take a stand for social issues. How does this impact you? If that 86% supports corporate activism, they will likely support athlete activism and your social initiatives.

There is a potential downside to athlete activism as this next stat shows. Engage for Good found that 50% of global consumers are “belief-driven” buyers, willing to buy a brand, switch from it or boycott it based on a brand’s stance on a controversial or social issue. This applies to you as a professional athlete well. You’ve seen the impact that kneeling during the national anthem has had on NFL players such as Colin Kaepernick. While many support him and he ranked in the top 50 list of jersey sales in 2017 when he was not on any roster, he has not been a participant in the game since the 2016 season and has made many enemies in some fans as well as the league.

Young People are Social Impact Driven

Young people (think: Millennials and Gen-Z) have really taken the charge in the cause marketing industry. 76% of young people say they have purchased or would consider purchasing a brand or product to show support for the issues that brand supported. Think about that as it applies to your athlete brand. 76% of young people would consider supporting your brand to show support for the cause you support. On the flip side, the importance of being smart with your brand is illustrated by this statistic: 67% of young people have stopped purchasing that same brand or product or would consider doing so if the company stood for something or behaved in a way that didn’t align to their values.

As we mentioned, these statistics don’t just apply to corporations. They apply to all kinds of brands- including yours as a professional athlete. If someone is willing to change what products they buy because of the causes they support, they can easily hit follow on your twitter or instagram page when they hear you are making an impact in the community. They may even start following your career, your team and your cause, becoming a regular supporter. Imagine the value you bring to your team or endorsement partnerships if you can go to them and show that you can give them fans and supporters through your social impact and philanthropy work on top of your athletic ability?

How Do You Incorporate Philanthropy Into Your Brand?

So now we understand that philanthropy is important from a value perspective, and we know that philanthropic initiatives have to be authentic and something we enjoy doing. But how do we incorporate that into our brand? We’d probably just start our own nonprofit foundation right? Slow down! There are so many other ways to give back and contribute to your community before making the huge step to embark on all the legalities and rules of creating a nonprofit.

Find a Worthy Non-Profit that Already Exists

There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits registered in the US alone. 1.5 million! No matter what cause matters to you, there is guaranteed to be a nonprofit out there that could use your support.

How do you find them? Google and a couple other methods. Sites like Charity Navigator, Global Giving, Guidestar and Project World Impact are great databases for non profit research. Remember that nonprofit organizations are businesses too, and it is important to do your research to find the best ones that are legally compliant and deal with the causes you care about.

See What the Organization Needs to Grow Their Impact

Once you find an organization that is doing great work, think about what they may need help with. Maybe they are looking for a bigger marketing presence online – offer to serve them as an ambassador and share their content or campaigns via your online platforms. Maybe they are looking for financial support for a project – consider donating or encouraging donations from your network. Perhaps they need a familiar face out in the community to support one of their projects – clear your calendar and head on out there. Or maybe they are looking for an athlete ambassador to be the face of their nonprofit – if you are passionate about the cause and agree with their mission and goals, set up the meeting and start building that relationship.

All of these options are fantastic ways to give back without going through the complicated process of setting up your own organization. And better yet, adds to your brand. Instead of being just the athlete, now you are the athlete that is giving back.

Tie the Organization in with Your Brand

What makes the most impact is to find a nonprofit that aligns with your already existing brand. Let’s say you love fishing. You fish as often as you can during the offseason and fans keep up with your latest catches. A great non profit would be one that works with commercial fishers to ensure they are protecting endangered species, avoiding sharks and dolphins and sticks to government mandates to keep fish populations healthy. Authenticity is key. Of course you’d support a non profit that protects fish and promotes safe fishing practices, you are a fisherman.

Another example- let’s say you are a foodie. You love trying the best cuisine and the trendiest restaurants wherever you go. Your cause could be your city’s local food bank or another non profit that provides food to those in need. It’s that easy- take what you love and help other people at the same time.

Ok, one more example. Let’s say you are a huge video gamer. You play Call of Duty, Fortnight, Madden, FIFA- if we name it, you play it. Did you know that there are several nonprofits surrounding gaming? Just a quick google search showed us at least six nonprofits that use gaming for good. You could host a live stream of you playing a video game with sponsors paying a fee for their involvement whose funds support a gaming nonprofit.  

Trust us- anything you are passionate about has a social good aspect. You just have to look for it! Think about it- what is the differentiating factor between one professional athlete who loves food and another? The professional athlete that loves food and works to help those in need to have food too.