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The most charitable time of year

For many brands, Christmas has increasingly become an occasion where their advertising efforts are supported by a link to a nominated charity. This year Sainsbury’s partnered with Save the Children to support children’s literacy (having last year supported the Royal British Legion), while John Lewis’s #ManOnTheMoon campaign was associated with Age UK. Pret A Manger, meanwhile, claims to be donating its marketing spend and channels to a variety of charities.

Given that Pret is not traditionally a big Christmas spender and the marketing channels it has donated consist of owned-media, such as window displays and packaging, its gesture of largesse might not be quite as significant as Sainsbury’s and John Lewis. But nonetheless any support for those less fortunate is welcome, and is also in tune with the spirit of the season – and in the case of John Lewis and Sainsbury’s also the theme of their Christmas advertising campaigns. They also appear to be more explicitly demonstrative in their call to action than The Co-operative, which merely suggests acts of random kindness.

While generally – and entirely appropriately – generating good PR for the brands concerned (as well as raising funds for the charities), Christmas charitable tie-ups also beg the question why these partnerships aren’t something that exist (and are promoted) all year round. Indeed cynics argue that such Christmas tie-ups can seem to be a confusing and convoluted attempt to marry the promotion of mass consumption with piety – surely a dichotomy? Wouldn’t brands, therefore, be better to demonstrate their commitment to charity all year around?

Obviously Christmas is the time when many brands spend large amounts of their advertising budgets – so this might seem to be the best time to make the most noise about charity. But in an age where polytheism and secularism are quickly replacing Christianity as the state religion, there is also an argument that brands could find other equally appropriate occasions to encourage the support of charitable giving and maybe even find a new key sales period.