No one understands better than J.C. Penney how social issues and retail marketing can make a perfect marriage. The Dallas-based retailer, which became the 1994 national presenting sponsor of the Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure series, is pleased with the results and plans to repeat the venture next year.
"We're halfway through the race schedule, and already we see it's been a winning partnership," said Carol Edwards, sports programs manager of J.C. Penney. "We see traffic building in our stores -- if not now, certainly in the future. And participation in the races is up 45% since our involvement, which benefits Komen. All in all, this is the jewel in our sports marketing crown."
As the sole national presenting sponsor, Penney stands alone in having the store's name as part of the official race logo, which appears in ads, on all race literature, and on the official t-shirts and visors worn by runners.
"When you have races with 10,000 women wearing t-shirts that say J.C. Penney, there is an immediate recognition of the store and a feeling of good will related to it," said Edwards. Penney also makes certain it has a visible presence at each individual race. In host cities where there are Penney stores nearby, the retailer distributes registration material and runners' packets. Employees act as volunteers on race day, manning the various booths and helping out where needed.
"In each city, we have a special events manager who works with the coordinating team for the race in creating or enhancing our presence both before and at each race," explained Edwards. "We look at opportunities to get these runners and walkers into our stores before and after the race."
Penney's work with Komen not only offers the retailer an opportunity to position itself as a corporate citizen, but it also affords the store a chance to promote its private label Arizona Jeans brand. "Arizona is the official brand for the Race for the Cure," noted Edwards. "We're introducing these ladies to our brand by giving out gift certificates for Arizona jeans to the winners and by making sure all our banners at the races say, 'J.C. Penney Arizona Jeans."' The company also linked the brand to the race promotions it sent out in credit card statements. One side of the credit card stuffer featured information about the race; the other side talked about the Arizona brand and its exclusive presence at J.C. Penney.
"This effort lets us accomplish many goals -- building community good will for the J.C. Penney Co., increasing women's wellness and physical fitness, participating in breast health awareness, target marketing to women, and promotion of one of our private label brands."

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