Fully 9 in 10 people are more likely to trust brands that support social causes, but your passion for the project has to be genuine. Enter the One World Play Project, a B-Corp that partners with brands, NGOs, and others to provide durable soccer balls to children in disadvantaged communities, transforming societies through play.

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I invited One World Play Project Chief Catalyst Neill Duffy to Marketing Smarts to talk about how brands benefit by supporting causes, why General Motors is donating two million balls to areas of the world that need them most, and how to find the right fit between a brand and a cause so that everyone benefits.

Here are some highlights from my conversation with Neill:

Whether you call it "social responsibility," "conscious capitalism," or something else, brands have a role to play in making the world a better place (05:25): "There's a lot of different terminology that is used to describe the same type of thing in one shape or another.... At one end of the spectrum, we have...philanthropy. At the other end of the spectrum we have...'shared value' or 'shared purpose.' And in between that you've got all different varieties of responsible behavior by a corporate company, whether it's 'corporate social responsibility' or 'socially responsible investing' or 'conscious capitalism' or 'triple bottom line.' These are all words that are used to describe  a growing trend in the corporate world which recognizes that business has a role to play in making the world a better place, that their customers expect it of them, and that their customers are prepared to reward and support those business and brands that take that approach."

Supporting a cause demonstrates that your brand has a heart and soul (06:08): "What's so nice about the One World [Play] Project...is that it is a very tangible way for a brand to engage in some kind of purposeful activity. I think a really good case study here that kind of brings this to life is the strategy that General Motors adopted with their decision to get involved with soccer—or football—as a platform that they could use...to help them become a top 10 global brand within the next 10 years.

"[GM was coming out of bankruptcy]...and they recognized that they needed to do something different, and that major growth markets for them were going to come out of Asia and places other than North America, and that soccer was a great platform for them to use to reach a lot of people in a very cost-effective way and to tie into their passion...and use that as a platform to communicate the values that [GM's] Chevrolet [brand] stands for.

"What the One World Play Project presented Chevrolet with was the opportunity to add a soul and a purpose to that strategy. So, while the association with Manchester United...that became the biggest sponsorship deal ever done for a professional football club, that provided them with reach. (Manchester United apparently have over 800 million fans around the world, so a great platform to reach a lot of people in far flung places.)"

For best results, choose a cause that aligns with your brand message (07:22) "The partnership with the One World Play Project as part of [GM's] strategy was really about giving General Motors—or its relationship with [Manchester United] fans—a heart and a soul, and being able to demonstrate that, through its support of play and making it possible for people to play, all things are possible, which is a great proxy to their brand positioning of 'find new roads' and how they're trying to position that vehicle.... The value a proposition like the One World Play Project is it's very real, it's very tangible. A branded ball in the community is a great way of demonstrating that commitment."

Neill and I talked about much more, including how brands can measure the business impact of supporting a cause, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

You can learn more about the One World Play Project at OneWorldPlayProject.com. You can also follow Neill on Twitter: @NeillDuffy.

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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