Along with millions of other Americans, I eagerly sat down on Sunday, February 5th to watch Super Bowl XLVI — and by “Super Bowl,” of course, what I really mean is “Super Bowl ads.”
Arguably as big of a viewer attraction as the football game itself, Super Bowl ads are discussed, anticipated, and, this year, watched beforehand on YouTube, by all target consumer demographics. As a cause-aware, nonprofit professional who cares about companies that care, I was especially excited to see the ads this year supporting causes.
Why I’m Disappointed
Boy, was I — and everyone like me — disappointed. As Joe Waters pointed out in his blog, there was one ad that approached the realm of cause marketing, and while the “Bud Light Rescue Dog” was certainly adorable, it simply didn’t make up for the glaring paucity of cause awareness throughout the other 48 ads.
This isn’t the first time cause marketing has gotten the short end of the Super Bowl ad stick, either. Last year the only contribution took the form of Groupon’s “Save the Money” campaign, and, well, let’s just say most people agree that it wasn’t the best example of cause marketing.
In 2010 Pepsi had a big cause presence by removing itself from the Super Bowl ad realm altogether and putting the money towards the Pepsi Refresh Project — an admirable and exciting initiative, and probably the best example over the past few years of how big business can create big impact. But then, it wasn’t technically a Super Bowl ad.
Some might bring up Chrysler’s “Halftime in America,” ad with Clint Eastwood, or GE’s “Building Something Big in Lousville.” While these ads inspire confidence in the American workforce (and in these companies, by design), they are not concretely supporting a cause, or giving consumers a way to do so. Thus, they are not cause marketing campaigns.
So where are all the Super Bowl cause campaigns?
Your Customers are Trying to Tell You Something
Cause awareness among consumers is rising, and supporting a cause is becoming ever more important for business who want to capture and retain the loyalty of picky, plugged-in potential customers. According to the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study, 83% of Americans wish that more of the products, services and retailers they use would support causes. And 61% are willing to try a new brand (or one they’ve never heard of at all) if it’s associated with a cause. Talk about a great way to get consumers to switch from your competitors!
“Purpose is now the fifth P of marketing. It’s a vital addition to the age-old marketing mix of product, price, place, and promotion,” said Mitch Markson, global Chief Creative Officer and President of Brand Consulting for Edelman, and the founder of Edelman goodpurpose.
According to the 2010 Edelman goodpurpose study, 87% of Americans believe that business needs to place at least equal weight on society’s interests as on those of business. And despite the prolonged recession, nearly three out of four Americans (72%) report that they are more likely to give their business to a company that has fair prices and supports good causes than to a company that provides deep discounts but does not contribute to good causes. In fact, more than half of consumers say that they are willing to pay more for a product that donates a portion of its profits to a good cause.
A Great Opportunity
In addition to the demonstrated interest of consumers in cause-friendly companies, there’s another factor that makes cause marketing campaigns, particularly during the Super Bowl, such a great opportunity for companies: Social media.
Were you counting how many commercials during the game featured a special hashtag, QR code or Facebook Page? I wasn’t, but I know it was a lot. This is because companies know that social media is a revolutionary tool to create sustained engagement and brand awareness beyond a 30-second ad spot.
Imagine the awareness and impact that could be built if the power of social media was combined with the viewing magnitude of the Super Bowl to launch cause campaigns.
“It is no longer enough to slap a ribbon on a product. It must be authentic, long-term and participatory,” said Carol Cone, Global Vice Chair, Edelman Business and Social Purpose. “Americans are seeking deeper involvement in social issues and expect brands and companies to provide various means of engagement.” According to Edelman’s goodpurpose study, 40% of 18 to 24-year-olds would help promote a socially responsible brand via Facebook and Twitter.
Imagine if next year, more brands join Bud Light in connecting their Super Bowl ad campaigns with a cause. Imagine if the millions of people watching all over the country during this one event learned a dozen, or even two dozen, ways to support a cause they care about. That would be pretty great, right?
So again, my question is: Where are all the Super Bowl cause campaigns?