In Branding & Identity, Marketing & Advertising, Marketing Strategy, Social Media

As a board member for a national non-profit organization and a sometimes nonprofit marketer, I am encouraged by recent examples of authentically leveraging cause-related issues in effective advertising. Connecting a brand to a cause people feel strongly about just makes sense for both parties and from a financial perspective has a tremendous ROI for the brand making the investment. As long as you choose the right cause – and for the price of a super bowl spot it is an expensive gamble.

This Sunday, I and a 100 million friends and family will indulge in too many chips and dip and watch Super Bowl LII. Well, some of us will focus on the game, others on Justin Timberlake’s halftime show, but for others, the many commercials that have been in the works since the final whistle blew at Super Bowl LI will be the biggest draw

Not only do these ads cost more on a per second basis than the original Super Bowl ads cost for an entire 60 second spot (84,000$) they are enshrined in a game of their own known as the “AdBowl”. The Adbowl compares the effectiveness and quality of the competing entries by measuring views and tracks them in real time. For Adwomen/men, this is the game that matters most and this year they can watch that competition on their second screens in real time.

The game’s massive viewership makes it one of the biggest marketing opportunities of the year and with an average $5 million price tag for 30 seconds also the most expensive. Each year there are different trends and in recent years Super Bowl ads have begun to echo the mood of the country embracing causes that matter to key demographics. There will still be ads that go for humor, which continues to be broadly effective, particularly for men, but survey data shows Millennials care about authenticity so look for more brands than ever to try to pierce these fickle consumers through their heart more than their funny bone.

When you are having trouble getting organic traction a classic ‘promotional’ strategy doesn’t make sense. Data supports the use of cause-related marketing to connect to Millennials, particularly for women who are an ever-increasing share of the Super Bowl viewership – as high as 59% of US women (74% of men) watched the game in 2017. Brands seek out partners in the non-profit community to give their earnest words the credibility of an authentic established player in the space. Here are highlights from the recent past of non-profit connected ads:

2014: Chevy: “Life” — #PurpleYourProfile: This Chevy ad celebrates cancer survivors and those still doing battle with the disease. It connected to the automaker’s #PurpleYourProfile social media campaign, which called on viewers to turn their Facebook and Twitter profile pictures purple in honor of World Cancer Day. Chevrolet contributed $1 to the American Cancer Society for every purple profile and raised its max of $1 million during the campaign.

2015: Always: #LikeAGirl: The ad push, which began summer 2014, shows differences in how young women, boys, and young girls perceive the phrase, “like a girl.” The Super Bowl ad received praise all over the Internet for changing the conversation about what it means to run, throw and do pretty much any activity “like a girl.” The hashtag #LikeAGirl garnered 177,000 tweets in the first three months, and the Always YouTube Channel subscribers grew 4339%

2016: Colgate’s #EveryDropCounts: Colgate, one of the world’s largest toothpaste producers, used the world’s most watched football game, Super Bowl 50, to shine a brighter spotlight on the need and value of water conservation. In its 30-second spot, the company encouraged people to turn off the tap when brushing their teeth – to “make every drop count.” The ad generated an unprecedented 2.7 billion consumer impressions through earned media and digital efforts.

2017: Audi: ‘Daughter’ – #DriveProgress: Audi continued to push the envelope with compelling storytelling on a national platform. Pay equality is a big message for a big stage and “Daughter” with over 12.8million views on YouTube doesn’t just transmit the idea of little girls being the equal of little boys—this ad is squarely aimed at what happens inside workplaces once those children grow to become adults. Audi of America has now publicly pledged to support an ongoing commitment to women’s pay equality in the workplace and to foster a work environment that drives equality for all employees.

Digitally savvy brands are integrating their humanitarian messages through online landing pages, hashtags, and social media, stretching their TV dollars by supporting sharing during the game on phones, tablets or other “second screens”. Approximately 25% of the cost of a commercial slot is now spent marketing the ad itself.

Spoiler alert: Ads already being promoted before the game!

In a teaser ad released last week, Hyundai said it would “surprise millions” with the Super Bowl spot. And, Budweiser – another Super Bowl veteran, is promoting its Disaster Relief Efforts pledging to deliver even more clean water to American communities in need.

Join the conversation and let us know what your thoughts are on the integration of non-profits into Super Bowl ads. Is this a good thing for brands, non-profits or for viewers? I will follow up with a post next week taking a look at the ads during the game and rating their effectiveness for both brand and cause.

David Spitzer is CEO of Upper Diamond, a learning and marketing firm. If you want to engage in a conversation around a campaign or strategize your next cause-marketing campaign, we’re willing to help you make a principled stand, launch a new product or share a moment. Find out more about us at
Data reference: 74% men watch, 59% woman
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