Following the Corporate Social Opportunity panel discussion at the 2012 Soccerex Global Convention in Rio de Janeiro that was hosted by Back in Football, a very simple yet often overlooked question was put to me by Tim Van Dooren, the founder of More2Win – ‘How can corporates learn about or get started with social responsibility in football?’.
Whilst CSO or CSR is now a commonly used term, it is still clear that in many cases, there is a lack of understanding about how to develop a strategy that works.
Let’s start with what Corporate Social Responsibility means. It is not just about being charitable and feeling good about yourself. It is not a new term for sponsorship and so return on investment should not be a driving factor behind CSR work. As the very words suggest, Corporate Social Responsibility is an organisation’s commitment to their stakeholders and services in a bid to strive for sustainable positive change.
Therefore whilst a lot of the work we do and support around the world is focused on charitable projects that use football as a tool to educate or change the lives of young people, it is important to remember that the feel good social factor of giving to charities to enable to them to reach more young people is only one fraction of what CSR can mean to a business.
Being ‘green’, improving unemployment in the local area, employee health or improving supplier impact on the environment are just some of the other ways that football clubs and sponsors in the football industry may choose to develop their social responsibility and sustainability.
The opportunity is for the entire organisation to believe in and support the strategy and activities of their business. When this happens, it very quickly becomes apparent that CSR is not actually an excuse for another division and separate budgets for ‘doing good’. In fact it is synonymous with all marketing and operational activities of the company.
Many organisations working with or looking to work in Brazil throughout 2014 are now thinking about what else they can do in a social context around the significant investments they are making on a hospitality or sponsorship side, which is fantastic and reassuring to hear. More2Win offer a very targeted experience for corporates going to major sporting events around the world and they do it with the ambition of showing organisations how much more they could be doing to support communities and young people through sport. This is a great example of how some organisations can learn the basics of CSR and also discover some causes that are particularly meaningful to their company culture.
The PR benefits of doing good through football are clear to see. Positive press coverage of an organisation is always welcome, but some corporates should be careful to not treat CSR as a tick box exercise. Just donating some kit once to a charity may make you feel good and the project that receives it may even be kind enough to send you a nice framed picture of the children receiving the kit that can be put on the wall in your office. But there is so much more that could be done through some very simple steps to achieve sustainability and real value for both your organisation and the charities or causes you wish to support.
Think longer term. Think about your company culture and beliefs. Think about differentiating from your competitors and most important of all – don’t do anything at all if you’re not entirely sure why you’re doing it!
These are the thoughts of Daniel Wood from Back in Football. Follow @danwood9 and @backinfootball on Twitter for more.