BWF_shutterstock_77627611We are often asked, “What’s the difference between ‘Cause’ Marketing and ‘Worthy Cause’ Marketing?” The most obvious difference is the intention of the marketing. With Cause Marketing, the emphasis seems to be on creating an image that your company is sponsoring a particular non-profit. The intention is to show the general public that you are helping a cause that everyone agrees is beneficial. Many non-profits rely on these sponsorships to continue to do their good works. The “selling” of sponsorships is necessary to support especially large non-profits, and the big companies that pay for these sponsorships deserve our admiration.

But what about the start-ups and struggling entrepreneurs who can barely make ends meet? How can they, with limited funds, support their chosen non-profits, and at the same time create sales of their products? For smaller companies, their support is, after all, a marketing effort.

The answer we found is Worthy Cause Marketing. It’s not aimed directly at the general public as if to say, “Look, we’re doing our part, you can feel good about buying our products because we are the official sponsors of this or that non-profit.” It’s more about addressing the individual members of the non-profit, with the hope that your efforts on the non-profits’ behalf will give them a social reason to buy your products and services. Wouldn’t you prefer to support the companies that support your causes?

But if you are a start-up or a small struggling business, you are probably under-capitalized and can’t afford cash donations, let alone big sponsorship fees, or even an advertising budget. With your limited funds, how can you get noticed by the right audience who wants your product or services?

Our own company was grossly under-capitalized, just like most start-ups, and incidentally, like most of our clients and the entrepreneurial students we talk to today. We faced the same dilemma that they do. “How can we get the word out to the folks who are most likely to buy our product or services in the most efficient way?” You realize that you can’t buy a sponsorship, but you want to help and you need customers.

Worthy Cause Marketing provided an answer. We could afford to donate products and services. We could afford to take the non-profits’ message to the street in the form of signage on our products in a venue they could not otherwise access: the stores. We could afford to send our employees in to help them set up and tear down for the fundraisers. We could afford to engage in their functions and events. We became more than just sponsors – we became partners in their causes.

We chose non-profits and community fundraisers that we, and our product, resonated with. They were worthy of us, our time, and our products. We gave their members a social reason to buy our products, and we were efficient because we helped the groups who were the most likely to purchase our products.

In the 20 years of growing Barefoot Wines, we never paid for commercial advertising. We relied solely on Worthy Cause Marketing, and became one of the fastest growing wine brands in the nation. It worked for us. It just might work for you!

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact