I sat down with my roommate to watch a little bit of a baseball game. I am not a real fan of the sport, so this is not a common thing for me to do. I have nothing to say about the game itself. But I saw a commercial that made me sick. That is what this node is all about. I have changed the names in this node to protect the guilty.

The scene

Half a dozen well dressed, middle aged men sit around in a living room. One of them is sipping a glass of wine. The oldest one does all the talking.

Hello I am Frank Sunnen. The Sunnen family has been selling cars in St. Louis for over 40 years. St. Louis has been very good to us. So we have decided to give something back. Everytime the Cardinals, the Rams, or the Blues win a game, we will donate $100 to (big name charity) Childrens Charity. Thank you St. Louis. Be sure and come visit any of the Sunnen dealerships for a test drive on any of our fine automobiles.

This sounds very nice at first. But let's look at what they were really saying.

The real scene

Hello I am Frank Sunnen. I am a millionaire. So are all of my brothers. The women are all home in the kitchen where they belong. My advertising manager thought of a great idea to help us sell more cars, and look like good people at the same time. While only using a tiny fraction of our advertising budget.

Everytime one of our hometown teams wins a game, we will donate $100 to the big local childrens charity. Don't worry about the fact that we spent several thousand dollars airing this commercial. Don't think about the fact that we will spend $4000 telling you about each and every hundred dollars that we donate. That isn't important. (Did I mention that I am wearing $400 shoes?)

We have selected a local charity, even though $100 could save the life of a child in a third world country. Let's face it. None of those children in Africa are going to grow up and buy a car from me, now are they? Don't forget to buy your next car from us, after all, we care.

The whole idea of this makes me sick. Charitible contributions used as advertising. How many children's lives could be saved with the money they spend telling us how wonderful they are. Can you imagine the poor mother having to tell her dying child, "I am sorry. There is no medicine. You may have gotten to live if the Cardinals had won that last game." If that family cared one bit about children, they would not be up on television wearing $900 suits, and telling us how their $100 is really helping people. If they really did care. Then they would have donated all of that money to begin with, and them some.

I would like to thank JayBonci for his excellent rebuttal.
The number one reason why people donate money to charities is because of a large tax break by the federal government. As the CEO of my own corporation, I can assure you that the government encourages large corporate giving in the form of tax relief and other incentives. Many, many companies engage in such activities, and many other groups and wealthy individuals also take advantage of such laws. In fact, Microsoft has paid no federal tax in a while, as they are smart about their donations and stock option plans.

These laws are in place to give an incentive to help fund some really great work performed by the many charities across this country. Businesses accountants carve their living out of managing giving to these charities along with other annuities to wield the tax laws in the favor of the payee. These people are in business, and better for worse, that's what they do. People buy and sell, drive the economy, and put dinner on the table for themselves, their suppliers, and everyone up the chain to the materials manufacturers.

Many companies choose to take the endorsements that come with sponsoring certain charities. Those ads on TV don't say "we're playing with children's lives", they say "we are good for more than just selling cars." These charities are happy to give a few people a plug if they financially donate to them. Hey that's cool by me, no harm no foul. If what you care about is your public image (politicians, public officials, figureheads of anything), then a charity saying that you are a "good guy" isn’t a bad thing. Again, they are in business, and businesses crave that good image. Look at Wal-Mart for just a moment. They are notorious for child-labor violations, censorship, and running out local business. However, the Wal-Mart marketing machine stamps out all of that, and they are seen as the store where you can get everything cheaper with a smile to greet you at the door. Not to get on a tangent, but business success is largely is about image.

Whether or not a company is going to make a game out of their donation, that's fine. It gives exposure to the charity, and it gives the group a good name. Besides, it’s fun in an honest way. Does it look better whether you gave 500,000 dollars to a charity, or you do it through a softball game, or a home-run derby? Companies and charities know about how much they are going to give, and if they can advertise a big game, get a turnout for it, rally some spirit, help a charity and look like the good guy, fine. We all had fun, and everyone got what they wanted. No one loses here. The local car dealership is getting alright PR with a low-budget local commercial. The people in the community see them supporting both a local spirit (the local sports games), and a charity at the same time. It's all a rallying town spirit thing.

If you think your gripe is with people who play these games, your gripe is really with corporate giving itself, and not with the game. There is a good chance that at least some minimum is going to be set. If a person give $100 each time one of three sports team wins a game, figure at least 40 games per season times three teams, that's 120 * $100 or $12,000. That's not too shabby for a local car dealership chain, but it's really nothing big. It's like forgoing the profits on three cars. They could bleed a little more to charity, but I guarantee you, that they are in it for the tax break, and their accountant has arranged exactly how much to give.

There is no difference between giving it out for baseball wins and a celebrity golf tournament, Celebrity Jeopardy!, or the Major League Baseball Home Run derby. It is seen as a way for people to "win" money for charities. So what if the local baseball team tanks their season? The car dealership still wants to get their tax break, so they donate the same amount of money anyways. Ya know, it's all the same difference to me. There are no losers here and no child dies. That is an extreme view clouded by an ignorance of how things work. They aren't giving "as little as they have to in order to get the exposure." There needs to be an understanding of the way American business and the marketing thereof operates. When it all comes down to the end, it is the bottom line that matters to the company. This isn't really money isn't lost at all.

Don't be blinded by the PR of it all. This isn't wagering, this is merely business as usual.

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