Carol Cone and Kristin Kenney
Published 3 years ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Reaching 100 million people at once comes at a high cost — but the sticker price of a Super Bowl ad comes with deeper implications, both for brands and
society. What if that money was used for good?
This year, a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl cost advertisers $5.6
Most opt for this length, but a few will go longer-form and run ads up to 60
seconds long; so, for the purposes of this article, we’re rounding up to $6
million. While seven figures may be just a line item on a brand
it is a literally life-changing amount for individuals, communities and NGOs.
This year, as we prepare for a Super Bowl unlike any other, we asked: What if
that money was used for good?
This question is particularly weighty given that some ads will focus on the
impacts of COVID-19. A
few will seek to inspire and uplift; others will highlight the investments the
brand has made in response to the pandemic. While the former route feels icky
(nice sentiment, but what did you do to help?) and the latter is good (yet
storytelling, we believe the most authentic approach is to not advertise at
Some brands, including Super Bowl ad legend
and iconic US brand Coca-Cola, have made this choice. They’re not missing
out on the buzz, either — Bud and Coke’s forthcoming absence has garnered media
coverage; and the brands still created ads to run online (and likely on-air in
the weeks post-game).
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Budweiser won’t just be sitting on the sidelines for the first time in 37 years.
The brand is donating to a vaccine-awareness ad
run by the Ad Council (It’s worth noting that parent company AB InBev is
still running Super Bowl ads for its other brands). Coca-Cola’s absence is less
about doing good, and more about cost-cutting. Brand reps say they’re investing
“in the right resources during these unprecedented
And fellow beverage giant
PepsiCo, which has a
‘performance with purpose’ ethos, cut its primetime ad — in order to focus on
its sponsorship of the halftime
Altogether, this year’s ad buy has generated an estimated $400 million for
Imagine if the brands contributing to that total had put their $6 million
Feeding America could provide 60 million
meals to the hungry.
Habitat for Humanity could build 70 houses for
families in need across the US.
UNICEF could deliver 2.5 to 3 million malaria
treatments. Malaria costs Africa nearly $12 billion annually in lost GDP.
Action Against Hunger could save the
lives of 40,000 children who might otherwise die from hunger.
Nova Scotia Nature Trust could save 240,000 acres of
forest as part of their "double the wild" campaign.
Best Friends Animal Society could save 40,000
homeless dogs and cats.
United Negro College Fund might send 150 students to a
4-year college, tuition-free (state university, tuition only).
The Himalayan Cataract Project could cover
the cost of materials that restore sight for 240,000 people.
Companies could increase their employee gift-matching to nonprofits.
Microsoft alone could fund an additional 400 employees with its
$15,000 annual gift match.
Companies could help deliver hundreds of millions of vaccine doses.
Small businesses could get back on their feet through grants and
low-interest loans, reigniting local economies and getting more people back
Restaurant industry employees could support themselves and their families
while continuing to face extended unemployment.
Social entrepreneurs or companies could:
Create an app and distribution system to help combat food
and provide meals to millions of people across the country.
Develop a social robot to help children cope with autism, similar to My
Special Aflac Duck.
Create a digital platform to inspire civic engagement among all stakeholder
groups — across a spectrum including voting, employment, volunteering and
donating, activism and more.
These are just a few ways that $6 million could be used for good. Every
nonprofit, foundation or authentically purpose-driven
could find worthy ways to invest that amount of money. So, while this year we’re
still asking “what if,” we hope that next year we’ll see more impact and less
ads — or at least, ads about impact and investments
Ultimately, we understand that broadcasters/networks, the
and brands need to generate a profit — but no actor is immune in this dynamic.
All have a responsibility to balance purpose and profits, and we believe they’re
not doing enough (the rising cost of a Super Bowl ad has far outstripped
indicating that even a mere balancing of economics could funnel more money
toward good causes).
Viewers, you’re not immune either: With the time we spend watching the Super
could find a new nonprofit to support; share
important policies or petitions; raise awareness for
issues relevant to our communities; help a
and so much more.
Can you imagine the potential impact of 100 million people spending even one
hour for good? We can. And we hope this dream becomes a reality.
Published Feb 5, 2021 1pm EST / 10am PST / 6pm GMT / 7pm CET
Carol is internationally recognized for her work in Purpose and CSR. Carol Cone ON PURPOSE is the return to her entrepreneurial roots and life’s passion: to educate, inspire and accelerate purpose programs and impacts for organizations, nonprofits and individuals around the globe.
Kristin Kenney, Senior Associate at Carol Cone ON PURPOSE, has spent her career
helping dozens of private and public sector companies bring their social impact
to life. She firmly believes that business can and should profit with purpose.