Why isn’t Procter & Gamble or Unilever brave enough to sponsor Amnesty International’s 50th?

There aren’t many organisations on this troubled earth that can be confidently called a ‘good thing’ but one such is Amnesty International which has been sticking up for political prisoners and other causes under what we loosely call ‘freedom’ for 50 years now.

Today is its 50th Human Rights Day.

To mark this it’s bringing out a four-album set of Bob Dylan covers in January next year called ‘Chimes of Freedom’ after one of the great troubador’s seminal songs. Here’s We Are Augustines’ version of Dylan’s ‘Mama, you’ve been on my mind,’ written in 1964.

My question is: why isn’t a great big multinational (and it’s a bit unfair to pick on P&G and Unilever) brave enough to sponsor such a brave cause on such an occasion? After all, these companies are always banging on about their commitment to good causes, as David Jones of Havas explained in these pages earlier this week.

Well Amnesty’s tricky, of course. The countries that lock people up for no good reason include, as well as the obvious suspects, Barack Obama’s United States which is still operating Guantanamo Bay and the UK which sublets its unlawful imprisonment and torturing to other countries through its disgraceful rendition policy.

But a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you something…

Amnesty first hit the media big time with ‘The Secret Policeman’s Ball’ fund-raisers in London in the 1970s. These featured, inter alia, the Monty Python crew, Rowan Atkinson, singers including The Who’s Pete Townshend and the late, great Peter Cook. Here’s Cook doing his version of the judge at the celebrated Jeremy Thorpe murder trial.

And here’s an Amnesty concert from 1988 featuring, among others, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Peter Gabriel (all looking very butch), singing ‘Chimes of Freedom.’

Maybe Amnesty doesn’t want a big brand sponsor. But if corporate social responsibility really means anything (apart from being nice to trees) some brave corporation surely ought to try to persuade them otherwise.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.


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    Good post. Though I feel Amnesty has lost its way somewhat recently, and personally prefer Human Rights Watch, significant public corporate support is lacking to both. We should remember that many executives do contribute significantly in a personal capacity however.

    Companies ought to help if only out of self-interest. Countries that respect human rights are more likely to respect the rights of companies, intellectual property rights, etc…

    One would hope that a big company like Havas, for instance, would to be top of the list of open contributors given recent public commentary. Most agencies do quite a lot of pro bono work, no doubt including Havas. But a more public stand from bigger names would be nice to see.

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    Laudable though it may be, Amnesty, like Greenpeace is not a charity, but a pressure group, which makes it an altogether more tricky cause related marketing issue.