Wow! What a game! And I’m not just talking about the God-fearing Eagles taking down the Evil Empire in Super Bowl LII. Yes, the game was great with lots of offense and Nick Foles putting on a QB clinic. But what struck me, and a few of my colleagues, was the number of brands choosing to invest tens of millions of dollars on cause-related ads during the big game.
Brands like Budweiser, Stella Artois, Hyundai, Verizon, Toyota and T-Mobile each dedicated at least one ad to highlight a cause they support. This begs the question: why would these global brands choose to spend upwards of $5 million per 30 seconds on cause marketing rather than selling their product on the world’s biggest advertising night? Here are a few reasons I believe they made this investment.
1. Consumers expect it
While there has been a great deal written about millennials and their desire to have brands share a passion for the greater good, I believe they’re not the only ones with this desire. Whether you believe it’s important to promote clean water in third-world countries like Stella Artois or support childhood cancer research like Hyundai, more and more Americans want to support brands that think bigger than just their next bottle or model.
2. It pays to have an emotional connection
In a world of commoditization—where every other car looks the same, there’s a craft brewery springing up on every corner and mobile phones are practically disposable—brands must find a way to connect with consumers on a deeper level. What better way to do this than to tug at our heart strings with causes that matter to millions of people? So, T-Mobile standing up for equality and Verizon praising first responders not only served to highlight important issues but also helped bring meaning and connection to their brands in a way that smart phones and unlimited plans just can’t.
3. It’s the right thing to do
I think we can all agree that the vast majority of businesses are in it to make a profit. In return, they provide jobs, pay taxes and contribute to society. Or at least they should. Budweiser is not only the King of Beers but also it’s the king of the emotional Super Bowl ad. Think amazing horses, cute dogs and a storyline that rips your heart out. But this year’s ad focused on how the brand supported hurricane relief efforts in 2017 by donating water to storm-ravaged communities. While Bud may be bragging a little bit, they’re also setting an example for other brands. Being in business is about more than just selling beer. It’s about giving back when our communities need it most. These ads help us remember that.
4. It brings people together
Unfortunately, it goes without saying these days that we’re a divided country. Whether politically, racially or spiritually, our nation seems to be at odds with itself. Feel-good ads, like Toyota’s “We’re all one team” ad where a rabbi, a priest, an imam and a Buddhist monk all pile in a Toyota truck to go pull for their team, gives us all an opportunity to share something positive (and maybe a laugh or two). When a brand can be the catalyst for that kind of unity, they’ve earned some real respect and credibility. They’re seen as a uniter, not a divider. We could certainly use a few more of those today.
So, whether you were watching the Super Bowl for the game or the ads, you certainly weren’t disappointed. It’s refreshing to see big brands step outside their comfort zone and focus on purpose rather than just product. I hope this is the beginning of a long-running trend in advertising. For our sakes and theirs.
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– David Chatham, Senior Marketing Consultant