Super Bowl 51 Ads Put Company Values in the Forefront

For the past 8 years, we’ve tracked which companies choose the Super Bowl as a moment in time to reaffirm or amplify their CSR commitments, but this year we saw something new. While many companies chose to stick with the well-worn playbook of animals, babies and celebrity appearances for their Super Bowl commercials, some companies took a gamble, using upwards of $5 million of their advertising budget to not only bring awareness to an issue, but more importantly, to showcase company values despite potential backlash. Here are the standout ads that lead with values:

  • While Airbnb is no stranger to supporting refugees, it took the Super Bowl as a moment in time to amplify this message to a captive audience of 111 million viewers. Although the ad simply focused on acceptance and had no clear call to action for consumers, it clearly stimulated conversation among viewers and was the most tweeted about ad in the first half of the game. Airbnb completed its multifaceted #WeAccept approach by including a pledge on its website to provide short-term housing for 100,000 people in need, including refugees.  
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  • Audi used its timely Super Bowl ad to firmly put a stake in the ground on an issue important to the brand. The commercial, entitled “Daughter,” featured a young girl competing in a boxcar race while her father watches, his voiceover questions whether his daughter’s worth is measured by her gender. The ad closed with a clear statement: “Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work.” An accompanying press release reveals how the auto company is committed to do this and a simple tweet from the brand reveals its motivations, “When the entire world is watching, you have to stand for what you believe in.”
  • Perhaps the most overt ad was Lumber 84’s “The Journey Begins,” which depicted a mother and daughter’s journey across Mexico into America. While it had no clear call to action for consumers (other than to see the conclusion of the ad at Journey84.com, which later crashed due to heavy traffic), it did conclude with a strong message: “The will to succeed is always welcome here.” One brand representative explained why the family-owned lumber company chose to take such a strong stance on a politically divisive subject, "If everyone else is trying to avoid controversy, isn't that the time when brands should take a stand for what they believe in?" And for better or for worse, the brand catapulted to the forefront of the post-Super Bowl ad conversation.

This year’s Super Bowl ads brought a more poignant and undeniable call for equality and acceptance from a handful of companies daring enough to voice a strong opinion. Given today’s highly charged political environment, there is no doubt these companies took a risk by bringing certain issues to the forefront and sparking conversation.  Now it is up to consumers to judge the authenticity of those values and insert their own beliefs into the conversation.

By: Sophie Komornicki, Marketing Associate