Promotional marketing: Charity-linked promotions

Oct 31st '22

Promotions run by third parties, such as commercial companies, which claim that participation will benefit a registered charity or good cause, are likely to be considered charity-linked promotions.


The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) receives very few complaints about charity-linked promotions, and there are limited examples to demonstrate how the ASA has applied the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code to these promotions in practice; however, the guidance below can be used to support advertisers in ensuring that their charity-linked promotions comply with the Code.


Advertising rules set out the requirements marketers must follow when advertising charity-linked promotions. This includes the requirement to include certain information in all promotional marketing, such as:


  • the name of the charity or good cause which will benefit,
  • its nature and objectives (unless obvious),
  • what will be gained by the named charity or cause, and
  • the basis on which the contribution will be calculated and whether the promoter’s contribution is limited.


The rules also state that ads should not exaggerate the benefit to the charity or cause derived from individual purchases of the promoted product.


If an ad states that a certain amount will be donated for each purchase, for example “10p per purchase donated to x charity”, marketers should not impose a cut-off point for contributions by consumers. Whilst it is likely to be acceptable for promoters to state a target total in the ad, any extra money collected beyond this target should be given to the named charity or cause on the same basis as contributions below that level.


Where a promotion states or implies that part of the price paid for goods or services will be given to a charity or cause, the ad must state the actual amount or percentage of the price that will be paid to the charity or cause. For example, claims like “10p per purchase donated” or “50% of the price of each booking donated” are likely to be acceptable, whereas claims like “we will make a donation for every purchase of this product” will not, unless the ad provides further specific information about the donation amount.


For any other promotion linked to a charity, or where a third-party states or implies that donations will be given to a charity or cause, but does not state an amount per purchase, the promotion must state the total (or a reasonable estimate) of the amount the charity or cause will receive.


In addition to specifying the information that should be included in the ads themselves, these rules state which information promoters may be required to provide to consumers if asked, or to the ASA in the event of a complaint. If asked, promoters must tell consumers what the current, or final, contribution is (8.33.8). Marketers should also be able to show that targets set are realistic, and should be able to provide the ASA or CAP with the formal agreement between the promoter and charity or good cause.


The ASA considered ads for a prize draw named “Raffleaid” which featured on Instagram and the advertiser’s own website. The ASA considered that the name “Raffleaid” gave the impression that all Raffleaid draws were run with the primary purpose of charitable fundraising. Because this was not the case, the name was likely to mislead. The ads also omitted information about Raffleaid’s charitable contributions, and Raffleaid did not provide evidence of a formal agreement with any charity. Additionally, none of the ads specified exactly what would be gained by the charity, stated the basis on which any contributions to them were calculated or the total (or a reasonable estimate of) the amount that they would receive. The ASA considered the ads omitted information about their charity-linked promotions that was required to be included by the CAP Code (Raffleaid, 12 October 2022).


The Code also makes clear that ads should not directly encourage children to buy or exhort children to persuade an adult to buy for them, a product that promotes charitable purposes. See also Children: promotional marketing and Children: general if featuring or addressing children in marketing communications.


Marketers should be aware that, when running a promotion, the rest of section 8 may also apply, in addition to the rules discussed above. We recommend that this guidance is read in conjunction with the following guidance: Promotional marketing: General.


Source: CAP


Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s Advice Online entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.


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