April 11, 2012
German automaker Mercedes-Benz committed $1.3 million to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation to fund youth coaches in five cities in the United States, a sizeable donation that has the ability to strengthen brand association if luxury consumers take notice.
Mercedes USA and dealer partners will fund an initiative that will place 250 coaches in youth development projects in chosen neighborhoods. The brand’s donation process will begin by funding Chicago-based sports programs, with initiatives in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and New Orleans following later this year.
“This is predominantly our dealers who have long been active in supporting local causes coming together to put their weight behind a unifying initiative,” said Tommy Shi, diversity and inclusion officer at Mercedes-Benz USA, Montvale, NJ.
“The message they send is that they care about the communities in which they do business and they want to do what they can to ensure that all young people are able to get to the starting line so that they can succeed in whatever they choose to do," he said.
"Mercedes is one of the most aspired to brands in the world, our customers are some of the most successful in the U.S. and we have some of the most talented people in the industry working for us.
“We think that makes it incumbent on us to reach out and help others to succeed, particularly the younger generation.”
Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that supports sports-related projects that improve the lives of children.
Get the ball rolling
The donation that Mercedes is making to Laureus Sport for Good Foundation will be put to use with a focus on underprivileged youth sports training.
Mercedes announced its sizable donation yesterday in Chicago.
The organization will begin by placing approximately 40 coaches in nine sports youth programs in the city's metro area. It claims that the coaches will reach 40,000 youth across 125 local communities via these activities.
In addition, 200 volunteers from Mercedes USA will visit seven project sites in the Chicago area.
The Chicago programs funded by Mercedes’ donation include Beyond the Ball, America Scores Chicago, MetroSquash, Girls in the Game, Urban Initiatives, After-School All-Stars Chicago, Chicago Youth Boxing Club, Triple Threat and Near West Side CDC.
Coaches will be placed through Coach Across America, Laureus' delivery partner.
Laureus Sport for Good Foundation activities
The program began yesterday afternoon with an event in Chicago during which two-time Olympic gold medalist and Hall-of-Fame running back Edwin Moses visited children at Beyond the Ball. This initiative teaches youth about personal and social responsibility through sports.
Mercedes entered into collaboration with Laureus Sport for Good Foundation to continue its tradition of giving back to youth, which the automaker previously did through scholarships, mentoring and other initiatives, claims the brand.
Also, the automaker has sponsored high-profile sports events in the past such as the Masters, U.S. Open and the PGA Tour and saw this partnership as an opportunity to build on those sports associations, per the automaker.
"This collaboration with Laureus Sport for Good Foundation is the intersection of two very important undertakings for us," Mr. Shi said. "Combining that passion for sports with our desire to help get as many of today's youth as possible to where they need to be in order to succeed with their dreams makes this an ideal match for us," he said.
Mercedes’ donations are being put to use starting in Chicago, a city that has seen $3.5 billion cut from school sports budgets in the last two years, claims Laureus.
In addition, the programs will provide employment opportunities to young adults in the Chicago area through the coach program, per the organization.
The automaker seems to have aligned itself with this cause as these facts are bringing to light the need for funding.
Mercedes previously gave its U.S. dealerships a halo effect by allowing them to donate $25,000 to local, national or international charities with a Facebook competition (see story).
Toyota Corp.’s Lexus also participates in charitable giving.
For example, the automaker used a social media campaign to give back this past winter called December to Remember.
Lexus donated $5 to Toys for Tots for each post shared with a maximum donation of $100,000. Consumers were also given the opportunity to donate through the automaker’s Twitter and Facebook pages (see story).
Luxury marketers tend to host events or team-up with charities to create a halo effect around themselves, and some experts believe that affluent consumers respond quite well to this strategy (see story).
“The trend toward charitable donation is getting a bit overused in the luxury market, as far as I can tell,” said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, Stephens, PA.
“Consumers hear so much about these charitable activities, it has become something easy to overlook and dismiss,” she said. “It shows good intentions, but how meaningful is it really for the brand or the community?
"Luxury brands have to do something to give back, but I am not sure exactly how much it changes the perception of the brand or influences customers."
Tricia Carr, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York