Siobhan Dunn, deputy director of fundraising at the Teenage Cancer Trust, is the first to admit that the £2m target set by fashion retailer USC for its two-year partnership with the charity is ambitious. "It is a large amount of money," she says. "We haven't had a partnership before where the company was so optimistic about how much it hoped to raise. USC is really gung-ho."
The trust is no stranger to the corporate sector. Its list of previous partners includes Credit Suisse, KPMG and Superdrug, and it is Arsenal Football Club's chosen charity for the 2008/09 season. In the past, the charity has preferred to partner with financial firms, but with the onset of the credit crunch it wants to extend its relationships across as many sectors as possible.
The current partnership with USC has been a long time in the making. The two organisations collaborated for the past two summers on summer sun safety campaigns, during which the scope for a closer relationship began to emerge.
"It became apparent that the trust's target audience was very similar to ours and that it used similar celebrities and the same sort of media space," says Joe Bohling, brand director at USC. "Once we got talking, it was clear the trust needed a lot of help and we were looking for more of a strategic partner, rather than doing ad hoc campaigns."
The partnership consists of a series of celebrity-fronted fundraising initiatives under the banner 'USC loves TCT'. The first project is a snap-on sweatband, which was launched last month, modelled by T4's Steve Jones and Miquita Oliver. The sweatbands are on sale in USC's 57 stores throughout the country for £2.50 each. Unusually, all the money, bar production costs, goes to the charity. "Our consumers are very comfortable giving to charity, but they want to know that all of it is going to the cause, rather than a small donation, and that there is a logical fit between the trust and USC," says Bohling.
Similar product campaigns will follow, each endorsed by different celebrities. Next in line are T-shirts featuring images created by celebrities and established designers, and made under the USC brand. Next, students, musicians and patrons of the trust will record exclusive music to be sold in USC stores.
Bohling says it is important that the partnership is credible, rather than merely imploring USC's young customers to give to a good cause. "They get hit with these messages all the time," he says. "We wanted to get away from being charity muggers in the street and have something tangible they can buy into. And if it's created by credible designers, it's something they'll want to wear anyway."
If the £2m target is hit, the trust will have enough money to build a specialist unit in an NHS hospital so that teenagers with cancer can be treated in wards specifically designed for people their own age.