Women's tennis and Habitat for Humanity make a strong match

Corporate social responsibility is an increasingly important contributor to bottom lines and staff morale, and it can be a highly effective tool for integrated PR.

Corporate social responsibility is an increasingly important contributor to bottom lines and staff morale, and it can be a highly effective tool for integrated PR.

One of the best examples is Whirlpool's CSR program involving Habitat for Humanity (HFH) and the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) - a synergistic winner that has captured the imagination of employees from all three organizations and made a noticeable difference on the ground. The relationship has even extended into advertising. Perhaps you've seen the TV spots in which Reba McEntire mentions that Whirlpool donates an appliance to every new Habitat home. Hits me in the gut every time.

Whirlpool's Jeff Terry says the sponsorship of HFH was not launched as a PR vehicle, but as a "practical application of a big-picture vision. Expanding our relationship with HFH [was] an opportunity to extend our efforts of corporate citizenship in meaningful ways."

The initial stage of the Whirlpool-HFH relationship was devoted to educating staff about the international nonprofit homebuilder, followed by a public fundraising and message point campaign, "Join us." Says Terry, "The greatest asset of our company is our people, and the HFH partnership is a gateway to becoming involved in a tangible communal mission that is at the same time a very introspective, personal experience. It's not just about building homes. It's building people, building loyalty, and connecting with customers on an emotional level."

Through its sponsorship of the WTA Sony Ericsson Tour, Whirlpool was able to enlist top-ranked tennis stars to the HFH - participating in on-site projects and acting as goodwill ambassadors. Says the WTA's Andrew Walker, "[We were] missing an overarching global charity or cause. Habitat, through the Whirlpool connection, was a natural fit. It has excited our players and enables us to develop a stronger corporate image."

Managed principally though Whirlpool's European office, the WTA-HFH partnership includes the Aces for Homes program, which rings up a Habitat donation every time a player hits an ace. Along with that, players do PSAs and frequently mention HFH during interviews and at sponsor events. At a recent party at Spago in LA, a painting by tennis stars such as Maria Sharapova was auctioned to benefit HFH.

Whirlpool/WTA/HFH is a perfect match, serving as a winning example of cross-integrated CSR.

  • Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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