Last time we discussed why it can make sense for some companies to spend huge sums of money for a single airing of an ad during the United States Super Bowl. This time we look at how an Australian company uses a different approach to achieve the same goal of positively positioning itself with consumers for long term benefit.
ActewAGL is a company that provides utility services (electricity and gas) in Canberra and southeast New South Wales. Most utility companies offer similar prices and reliability so an important product differentiator has become whether the company is viewed positively by consumers compared to its competitors.
ActewAGL knows this and has developed a program of support that goes deep into the Canberra and surrounding community. Spending about $1 million a year it supports sporting and community groups, charities, academia, the environment and the arts. The idea is to build strong long term relationships with all of these communities.
The communities usually receive financial support and at times ActewAGL staff offer both their time and expertise to a cause. In return ActewAGL receives the loyalty and support of that community group. It is usual practice that to qualify for funding you must be an ActewAGL customer plus there is often accompanying publicity in relation to the funding and other support.
Is ActewAGL being a good corporate citizen or simply instigating an enlightened marketing strategy?
The response from Paul Walshe, Director Marketing and Corporate Affairs, was that it was a bit of both.
“There is certainly something in our approach that helps ActewAGL but also I would hate to see where some of these communities would be without our support. Our approach often makes a real difference.”
“While the cash is spread far and wide we look to where it may be of most value to the community involved. We are not about being on the jumper of a top local football club but more about spending the money at a grass roots level to develop junior players, which is a wonderful way to support kids. Another major component for us is our support of women’s sport across the region.
Does this annual spend work?
“Well customer surveys suggest a vast majority (78%) say it is important or very important for ActewAGL to support the community. Additionally, we grew our Queanbeyan customer numbers strongly after we provided support to Queanbeyan sporting clubs such as the Queanbeyan Tigers, Whites and Kangaroos and charities including The Cancer Support Group and Home in Queanbeyan.
It also boosts employee motivation and morale as staff like to be associated with an organisation that contributes to the community. Demonstrating this, many employees donate their time and effort voluntarily.”
What about the future?
“We are currently looking to have a bigger impact on key social issues of the day and have recently developed a program to combat child obesity.
It would be a sad day if ActewAGL did not continue to support the community at large.”