Ads for the Ages: Super Bowl LII Highlighting more than Trick Plays

Katie Dunlap February 7, 2018 Employee Engagement

I come from a loud, Irish, Boston family and spent most afternoons of my childhood learning how to throw a spiral, so imagine what the past 18 years of Sunday nights have felt like with Tom Brady in the pocket. Regardless of who is playing or the outcome, the Super Bowl is a major event for me and for many others in America. Even if you can’t tell the difference between a cornerback and a center, there is one conversation that remains the same entering work on Monday morning… did you see that commercial?


New Call-to-action

Super Bowl commercials usually see more competition than the teams on the field and a great equalizer among big business. A reputation can be created in a matter of seconds, as long as the message is received effectively. When I was young, I remember being a fan of beer commercials because they always had puppies and horses. As a teen, Justin Timberlake eating chips usually got my attention. But now that I am in my twenties, earning my own money (and spending my own money), companies that promote making a difference are the ones carrying weight.

The CSR focused commercials made a significant impact on my Super Bowl watching experience and my impression of the ten or so companies that championed philanthropic ideals through marketing. Since I am submerged in philanthropic awareness every day, I decided to ask what impact it had on the demographics of Super Bowl fans? Are philanthropic ideals the future of corporate marketing or simply an emotional hotbed for Americans recovering from a year filled with natural disasters?

I sat down with three different generations, all annual Super Bowl Ad watchers and none with direct ties to corporate social responsibility, to gauge the effectiveness of this year’s CSR-minded campaign marketing:



Initial Thoughts?

Baby Boomer: I feel like if I had another service provider, I would be risking my life. I know that sounds extreme but it makes me feel safe.

Millennial: I almost cried during the commercial. It tugs at my heartstrings. I like that they use the emotional aspect instead of the funny aspect they normally take. It made me think how important it is to have good service. I’ve never had an issue with poor phone service, but it brought the thought to mind of the risk. In an emergency you know they’re reliable.

Gen-Z: I appreciated the stories and people connecting with their first responders. It highlights the company’s service while still making the focus the great job done by the first responders.

A shot from Verizon’s Super Bowl commercial. A first responder helping a Hurrican Harvey victim from her flooded home.

Has your opinion of Verizon changed?

Baby Boomer: I have always been with Verizon, so I’m already pretty brand loyal. However, it really puts it into perspective. That I have never had an issue with my service before. And if something were to go wrong, I could get help.

Millennial: It is a great commercial but it isn’t going to make me switch my phone service.

Gen-Z: I am more empathetic to Verizon as a phone company but not enough for me to switch phone services.


Do you think this marketing was successful?

Baby Boomer: Yes, especially after everything that has happened this year. It just felt really genuine. I could tell the responses of the first responders were the real thing. Maybe it was to sell their phone service, but it reminded me of all the good that has happened this past year.

Millennial: Yes, in terms of serving its purpose because the purpose was letting me know they’re reliable and dependable. No, if the final purpose was trying to get me to switch to their service. It may work for an older generation.

Gen-Z: Yeah, it reminded me that cell phones aren’t just for texting and personal use but can be used in a moment of emergency. The commercial highlights the dependability of the company.



Initial Thoughts?

Baby Boomer: I had no idea that Anheuser-Busch did this during natural disasters. When I was watching the commercial, I actually turned to my friends and said, they are going to fill the cans with water. So I googled the campaign after the commercial and found out that this has been something the company has been doing since 1988.

Millennial: At first I was kind of confused. I didn’t understand if they were trying to say they donated water or if they were now trying to sell water.

Gen-Z: I had no idea that Anheuser-Busch did that during disasters and thought it was a really cool opportunity for a company to use their resources that way.


Has your opinion of Anheuser-Busch changed?

Baby Boomer: It definitely makes me appreciate the company more. I’m not a big beer drinker, but if I’m going to get some at the store next time, knowing that they are doing these kinds of philanthropic campaigns would probably sway my decision in favor of Anheuser-Busch.

Millennial: I have not bought Budweiser before, but it sheds a light that they are a company that does philanthropic work. I wouldn’t buy their products just to drink their beer, but it does make me like the company more.

Gen-Z: My perspective of the company is definitely different. They stopped production of their profitable products to produce something to help people in return for nothing. I think that’s really honorable and all my friends really thought it was cool.

A shot from Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser Super Bowl commercial. Employees are filling cans with water to send in natural disaster relief efforts.

Do you think this marketing was successful?

Baby Boomer: Yes but I want to see this kind of thing every day. I want this to be the kind of marketing I watch. They have been doing this for years and I didn’t even know about it. I want to know about the good that Americans do every day because we don’t get to see that.

Millennial: No, because I didn’t know what they were trying to say, which isn’t a good thing. It looked like they were helping with disaster relief until the end when a man held a case of water. If I had seen more people handing out the water, I think the purpose would have resonated more.

Gen-Z: There is a common empathy among the people watching the Super Bowl towards disaster victims that is very American. However, I don’t think the target demographic of consumers for Budweiser are going to change their buying habits depending on what their beer company does for people.


So what does this all mean for CSR?

  • Time of life plays a role in perception. The baby boomer interviewed has a family and children and was much more aware of her needs in an emergency. The call-to-action created through CSR programs resonated more with the interviewees who had the responsibility of caring for others.
  • Younger generations are more aware of CSR activities and less surprised when they are used as marketing tools. The baby boomer even took time to research about Anheuser-Busch’s CSR history after watching the commercial, showing her previous unfamiliarity with corporate philanthropic programs.
  • The awareness of CSR programs made these three interviewees view both companies in a more positive light. It might not result in an immediate switch of service or purchase in a product, but it may subconsciously influence buyer behavior in the future.


New Call-to-action

Check back in next week when we analyze the pitfalls of some Super Bowl Commercials and give actionable steps to ensure effectiveness in your CSR marketing.