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Marketing and Comms
Super Bowl Ads Cost $6.5M This Year – What If Brands Used That Money for Good?

Advertising is a critical element for business success; and successful businesses are better positioned to give back to society. But we believe the societal impact of $6.5M can do far more to authentically connect stakeholders with brands than a half-minute of airtime.

The Super Bowl may be losing its luster — for advertisers, at least. 2021’s edition of the game saw several major advertisers slim down their spending on airtime or pull out entirely. The most notable absence was Budweiser, which sat out the game for the first time in 37 years and reallocated its ad dollars to COVID-19 efforts.

At the time, Marketing Dive noted that Budweiser was the first major advertiser to “publicly divert its big-game media spend to a purpose-driven effort.” Also absent from last year’s edition of the game were Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Ford and Hyundai — all long-time Super Bowl ad buyers. This year, more big brands are following suit — but none have made public commitments to reallocate their advertising dollars toward purpose initiatives.

Mars Wrigley is choosing to “show up in new, big ways for our fans” elsewhere; Procter & Gamble’s Tide brand is opting to “focus storytelling efforts on other media and events through the winter;” Coca-Cola is skipping both the Super Bowl and the Beijing Olympics; and State Farm, which aired its first Super Bowl ad in 2021, is forgoing an ad to engage audiences via TikTok. Kraft Heinz, Jaguar, Lexus and Hyundai have also announced that they won’t be advertising this year.

That puts at least $6.5 million (per 30 seconds of air time) back into the pockets of these brands — a record price tag, up from $5.6 million in 2021. And that’s before the cost of producing the advertisements themselves.

Last year, we shared alternative ways to spend the funds companies would otherwise put toward their Super Bowl ads. While they might not reach the estimated 100 million US football fans that make up the Super Bowl’s audience, they could have a far more meaningful societal impact (especially given that 80 percent of Super Bowl commercials apparently fail to change consumer opinions about a brand, anyway).

Here’s how this year’s increased price tag of $6.5 million could help deserving nonprofit organizations achieve greater impact:

  • Action Against Hunger could expand COVID-19 vaccine distribution in vulnerable communities in Ethiopia and South Sudan, where less than 1 percent of the population is protected against the pandemic.

  • Experience Camps could send 1,000 grieving children who have lost a parent, sibling or caregiver to a special week-long camp and provide resources to reach 5.3 million more bereaved kids, deeply supporting children in their grief.

  • FIRST LEGO League could provide its hands-on STEM program to 72,000 students and 9,000 teachers.

  • Habitat for Humanity could outfit approximately 1,083 homes with weather-resilient and energy-saving technologies or outfit approximately 325 homes with solar panels.

  • Shatterproof could bring — an addiction treatment locator, assessment and standards platform — into 20 new states, reaching 9 million people whose lives could be saved with quality addiction treatment.

  • National Wildlife Federation could prevent more than 400 tons of styrofoam from filling up landfills by providing reusable takeout containers on college campuses, or fund innovative conservation research by 1,000 students — both through its EcoLeaders program.

  • Green Bronx Machine could provide health and nutrition curriculum to 1,300 classrooms.

  • The Frederick Literary Council could cover the cost of all educational materials for 216,500 adult learners.

Here’s how purpose-driven companies and social enterprises could invest in their stakeholders or further socially minded innovations:

  • My Special Aflac Duck could be provided to 29,000 children with cancer and sickle cell anemia.

  • Unreasonable Group could support three years of development for more than 50 established social ventures in the areas of food and water, energy and the environment, and education.

  • Kiva could facilitate a $25 microloan to an additional 260,000 people within its network.

Advertising is a critical element for business success; and successful businesses are better positioned to give back to society. With that said, we believe the societal impact of $6.5 million can do far more to authentically connect stakeholders with brands than a half-minute of airtime.

When next year’s Super Bowl rolls around, we hope to see more brands sitting out the game — and not because they’re investing in TikTok instead. We hope they choose instead to invest their millions in their employees, communities and society at large.