Australian alcohol retailer BWS (Beer Wine Spirits) has sparked outrage after sponsoring the Dry July campaign, which encourages people to abstain from drinking alcohol to raise funds for people affected by cancer. The seemingly tone-deaf partnership is an important reminder for businesses to consider ‘brand fit’ when supporting social causes.

BWS’ Dry July support backfires

While the merits of supporting cancer patients are unquestionable, the intentions behind the retailer’s sponsorship can indeed be questioned. It is difficult to ignore the hypocritical undertones of an alcohol chain aligning with a fundraiser that helps people with cancer, when chronic alcohol consumption is directly linked to an increase in certain cancers.

The alcohol abstinence component of the fundraiser makes the collaboration even more contradictory and can be seen as no more than an opportunistic attempt to promote the retailer’s no-alcohol product ranges.

Aligning with any widely-appreciated social cause is no guarantee that a retailer will create goodwill and attract favourable attention. In fact, given that only 12% of Australians would be influenced to shop at a particular store based on their support of social causes, according to GlobalData’s 2018 Q3 consumer survey, it is evident that such efforts are likely to be overlooked for more personal benefits such as prices and convenience.

This makes it even more critical that social causes are selected thoughtfully in order to gain resonance with shoppers.

The partnership with Dry July was no doubt formed with some good intentions for a very worthy cause; still, for Woolworths-owned BWS the wider response to the sponsorship must have been sobering.

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