Low Impact On and Off the Field: Brands Play it Safe with Super Bowl LIII

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By Anna Wendt, Assistant Account Executive

Around the country, millions of people tuned in to watch Super Bowl LIII, a day not only for the competition between two franchises, but also a time when brands pull out all the stops for advertising campaigns. In fact, 17.7 percent of adults watching the game say the ads are their favorite part of the Super Bowl.  And like Super Bowls of the past, some of the standout ads from this weekend’s game did more than just promote the latest product. Here’s our roundup of the top Purpose-driven ads from Super Bowl LIII:  

  • Microsoft: Widely recognized as a highly emotional ad, Microsoft’s “When everybody plays, we all win” builds off the holiday advertisement “reindeer games” highlighting a new Xbox controller for gamers with physical disabilities. Starring several children with different conditions, the message is clear – they want to be like the other kids – and with this controller, they can be.

  • Budweiser: Featuring an adorable Dalmatian, the iconic Clydesdales (first featured in a Super Bowl ad back in 1986) and accompanied by the calming sounds of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In the Wind,” Budweiser uses its traditional Super Bowl advertising playbook for this 45-second ad – yet this time the focal point of the ad was the company’s commitment to renewable energy. The merging of brand promotion and environmental advocacy was a rare sight on Sunday night, helping Budweiser stand out among the other commercials.

  • Stella Artois: Harnessing the power of celebrities, this advertisement uses powerful characters Carrie Bradshaw and “The Dude” to show behavior change in a humorous way. Instead of ordering their usual drink, each character ordered a Stella for the “Pour it Forward” campaign. With each Stella ordered at a bar or restaurant, one month of clean water access is provided to those in need.

  • Verizon: Verizon came to the table with a powerful series of ads celebrating the first-responders who helped football players and coaches in life-threatening situations through “The Team That Wouldn’t Be Here.” The ads play at heartstrings by sharing the surprising moments these individuals met the first responders that saved them face-to-face. The emotional spot ladders up to the #AllOurThanks campaign which has discounted plans for first responders, a social media donation match and a dedicated line for first responders during emergencies. The campaign was activated in response to recent backlash of throttled networks during the California wildfires. This is the second year in a row Verizon has chosen to honor our responders during the Super Bowl after research found that two-thirds of first responders in America use Verizon to communicate.

  • Toyota: In 2018, the National Football League took several steps towards recognizing gender equality, from female coaches to male cheerleaders at the Super Bowl for the first time. Toyota jumps on the bandwagon by featuring Toni Harris in an emotional ad, the first female non-kicker football player to receive a sports related scholarship.

Although the above advertisements are winners in viewers eyes, it is clear that companies chose to play it safe this year – perhaps due to the growing controversy around the NFL itself. Unlike the bold social justice ads of 2017, this year brands chose to stick to the tried and true playbook of animals, celebrities and iconic brand symbols to draw attention to social issues. Like the slow-pace of the game itself, viewers weren’t wowed by this year’s crop of cause advertisements, but pleasantly placated with puppies and heart-warming stories.