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Brands from Heinz to Netflix are donating to COVID-19 relief. How you can join them

Kraft-Heinz, KFC, Under Armour, Netflix, Prada, and many more brands are stepping up their public giving in a time of crisis.

Brands from Heinz to Netflix are donating to COVID-19 relief. How you can join them
[Photo: choness/iStock; jentakespictures/iStock; KFC; 6/Unsplash]

A global pandemic isn’t exactly the best marketing opportunity for any brand.

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As the coronavirus crisis continues, brands are navigating uncharted territory, where business is anything but usual and the line between legitimate advertising and crass opportunism is thinner than ever in the eyes of the general public.

Smart brands have found a way to adapt, tapping into their wide cultural reach, supply chains, and more to remind us that there are humans behind those logos.

Ford, for example, dropped two ongoing ads that had been planned for March Madness and instead created two new ads around providing Ford Credit customers some breathing room around their car payments. LVMH was one of the first large brand operations to adapt its production line to make hand sanitizer for local hospitals and communities.

Now that we’re starting to come to terms with how long this crisis may last, more brands are stepping up to take part in the relief effort.

On Friday, Kraft-Heinz announced that it was donating $12 million in support of communities impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. In the U.S., that translates to $1.9 million in cash and $4.7 million in products, including Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Heinz Gravy, Planters Nut Mixes, and Devour frozen meals, for a total of $6.6 million to Feeding America and its network of food banks. That’s like two million boxes of mac and cheese and more than 666,000 frozen dinners.

KFC has partnered with the nonprofit Blessings in a Backpack to help provide weekend meals to kids who might otherwise go hungry, donating $400,000 to go directly to providing prepackaged meals for school children. Under Armour has donated $1 million to Feeding America and another $1 million to youth sports nonprofit Good Sports. Footwear brand Keen is asking people to nominate recipients for the 100,000 pairs of shoes it seeks to donate to those in need, in particular front-line workers and families fighting the virus at home. Lyft is donating tens of thousands of rides to those with essential transportation needs during the coronavirus pandemic, especially for families and children, low-income seniors, and doctors and nurses. Microsoft has worked with the CDC to create a chatbot aimed at helping to answer people’s questions about the virus, adding to the company’s existing efforts, which include a COVID-19 tracking tool with Bing. The Gates Foundation has pledged a $100 million donation to virus research. Netflix established a $100 million relief fund, which includes $15 million for donations to organizations already working to support out-of-work production employees.

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Last month, LVMH Group donated $2.2 million to the Red Cross in China, while Prada donated six intensive care units to three separate hospitals in Milan.

There are many others, with undoubtedly more to come.

These aren’t marketing efforts per se, but the more companies can use their power, products, and, yes, money, to help others, the more it resonates as true brand work rather than empty advertising.

Earlier this week I was talking to Nils Leonard, a cofounder of the agency Uncommon London, about its work with BrewDog, the Scotland-based brewer that shifted production to make its own hand sanitizer, and he made the point that any and every major brand should be thinking about in times like these: “We’ve all got reach, we’ve all got power, we’ve all got the assets we have available, what the fuck are we doing with them to make this the least painful moment it could be?”

Follow the links to learn how you can support the organizations that brands are supporting:

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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