In 1983, American Express launched an innovative partnership with the Statue of Liberty restoration project, donating one cent to the project every time a customer used an American Express card. That highly successful program kick-started “cause-related marketing,” which has seemingly become ubiquitous. The increased use of these campaigns – by both highly reputable corporate citizens and others – has given rise to increasing concern that consumers may be misled. This has led to extensive regulation of causerelated marketing by numerous states, as well as investigations concerning possible abuses. For example, the New York State Attorney General recently commenced an investigation of cause-related marketing campaigns related to breast cancer.
For businesses interested in both the considerable benefits of cause-related marketing and avoiding running afoul of state regulations and advertising pitfalls, this article provides a basic road map to common denominators and provisions in the state regulations and highlights those elements of a campaign that may trigger enforcement concerns.