241209122031pepsi_refresh_project Ad Age reports that brands are increasingly using a new form of causal marketing: microsponsorships. Instead of throwing a bunch of money at a cause or organization, brands are throwing a little money to a lot of people to pursue their dreams and aspirations.

The most visible of these is Pepsi Refresh, in which consumers can apply for grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000. Industry experts say that this approach has its benefits: engaging with consumers in social media, boosting small charities that can't compete with marketing juggernauts such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and free market research that results in more effective advertising campaigns.

I think the idea of personal causes is powerful. It comes at a time when more of us want to do good, be good and act good…and that doesn't just come with a donation to a big charity. The feeling is more personal than that.

…U.S. consumers are 31% more involved in philanthropic causes and volunteerism than they were a year ago.

Jim Stengel, former Procter & Gamble Co. global marketing officer, said even though the appeal crosses demographic lines, this type of effort is particularly effective with college students who are idealistic and want to be part of something larger. He's witnessing it first hand as an adjunct professor at UCLA. "People really do want to think beyond this generation; they want to think about their impact long-term," he said. "Will be there some cynics out there? Maybe. But there's a groundswell right now to do good things."

…Tellingly, 79% of consumers say they would be likely to switch from one brand to another (when price and quality are about equal) if the other brand is associated with a good cause. That's up from 66% in 1993, according to Cone.

I know I would. Would you?

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