This Sunday, while 111.9 million viewers tuned in to watch the Broncos battle the Panthers on the field, cause marketing once again caught our attention between plays during the commercial breaks.

The Super Bowl has become a strong platform for companies to showcase their cause efforts, and this year was no different. On the heels of the Super Bowl 50 Committee’s “Play Your Part” initiative, a number of brands chose to lead with social issues, shining a spotlight on just how far CSR has come as a core business and marketing strategy.

However, not all ads are created equal, and some do it better than others. Companies that kept the following best practices top-of-mind managed to garner attention in a sea of commercials and leave a lasting impact. Let’s review the lineup:


  • Be True to Your Brand: If you aren’t able to stay authentic, your message just won’t stick. Budweiser’s #GiveADamn spot featuring Dame Helen Mirren took a stand against drunk driving, using celebrity, humor and frankness to bring an important issue to light. We all know Budweiser is no stranger to using comedy in its commercials, and by staying true to its voice the brand was able to reach a wide audience with an important message. To drive it home, Budweiser donated $1 to safe-ride-home programs for every use of #GiveADamn on social media (up to $1 million), and a dedicated microsite allowed individuals to enter a zip code to find a safe ride.
  • Have a Clear Call-to-Action: Brands that led with a strong call-to-action broke through the noise in a big way. Not only did NO MORE’s “Text Talk” ad focused on raising awareness for domestic violence and sexual assault present an emotional but compelling message, it also left viewers with direct next steps. The ad challenged audiences to text NO MORE to 94543 to learn more on identifying warning signs of abuse. The coalition’s website also provides tips on recognizing the signs, supporting friends or family members and bystander scenarios to prepare individuals for real-life confrontations.
  • Tie it Back to A Focused Commitment: It’s important to practice what you preach. Colgate managed to stand out in its first Super Bowl ad, #EveryDropCounts, by making a clear connection to a vital material issue – raising awareness for the global water crisis. By challenging viewers to turn off the tap while brushing and pointing consumers to a microsite that shows how much water individuals can save by taking simple acts, Colgate shone a spotlight on its longstanding commitment to water conservation with the Nature Conservancy. The microsite also directs individuals to Colgate’s “World of Care” website to learn more about the company’s sustainability efforts.

Key takeaway: When harnessing the power of advertising to share your social or environmental message, keep the tenets of good cause marketing in mind. Challenge yourself to stay true to your brand’s identity, take your messaging beyond the feel-good by having a clear call-to-action and make and perform against real commitments. This is how you can truly inspire change.

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