Turning Good Into "Sport" And Other Good Innovations

It is refreshing to see goodness still bursting through in this bruising world economy. Nike, for the second year in a row, has teamed with Ashoka, a nonprofit that stimulates social entrepreneurism, to search globally for sports programs fostering social change. Both share a philosophy that philanthropy should be driven by innovation. The search takes place online at GameChangers: change the game for Women in Sport.

Last year three winners each received $5,000. Projects included Grassroots Soccer, a program leveraging soccer's popularity to educate young South Africans about HIV and AIDS, and in the U.S., Sports4Kids which provides physical activity and conflict resolution training to underserved children.

This year, the contest focuses on innovative programs targeting women's issues. By tying its philanthropy to key consumer segments, brand attributes such as innovation and its sustainable commitment to building girls' and women's self esteem through sport, Nike strategically links its "goodness" to its business. In these highly challenging times, creating "shared value," as Michael Porter calls it, is a smart business decision to enhance the effectiveness of giving, linking it to core business growth strategies. Interestingly, the potential for social change, not pure commerce, excites Nike through this contest. "If sport can be a major strategy for reducing HIV prevalence, then that's huge," says Ziba Cranmer, senior manager of social innovation at Nike.

Kudos to Nike for aligning its innovation in products with its international philanthropy. It is encouraging to see its constant creation of cutting-edge, sport-social impact programs. And, it is perhaps even more encouraging to see the words of Chairman and Founder Phil Knight come to life: “The performance of Nike and every other global company in the 21st century will be measured as much by their impact on quality of life, as it is by revenue growth and profit margins.”

Pedigree also continues to innovate and they do it right into our hearts. The Pedigree Adoption Drive Foundation, an organization founded by the dog food company to find homes for shelter dogs, recently extended its adoption campaign through an online contest. The idea, not new, but certainly powerful, encourages consumers to upload their favorite Fido photo to create a "Million Dog Mosaic." For each photo, the company will donate $1 to the foundation. Dog lovers throughout the country have responded with joy. To date, more than 55,000 have uploaded photos, setting a record for user-generated participation-- more than American Idol.

Even in trying times, both Nike and Pedigree show that cause innovation tied to strategy can be exceptionally powerful to link consumers with brands.


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