Companies have for years kept consumers on the couch for commercial breaks during the Super Bowl, and now, with a captive audience, the big game has become more than a place to push products.
For those with the resources, Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX will offer an unparalleled venue to attract public attention on a host of nationally debated issues, including cyber-bullying and domestic violence.
Recent years have seen a growing focus on politics and issues of national concern during breaks in the game. In 2010, for instance, former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow starred in a pro-life commercial with his mother.
In 2013, the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns aired an ad pushing for gun control and last year Coca-Cola’s ad in which “America the Beautiful” was sung in multiple languages incited controversy over whether the company was pushing for immigration reform.
Companies have recognized that they can bring more attention to issues with a 30-second spot than advocates could with any number of bills or congressional hearings.
And, not coincidentally, they can polish up their public image at the same time.
“It’s not about running an ad and counting the sales at the 7-Eleven counter,” said Paul Venables, founder and executive creative director of Venables Bell & Partners, a San Francisco-based advertising agency, which has created Audi’s Super Bowl ad every year since 2008.
“It’s about where your brand stands with peoples’ emotions and how they feel connected to it.”
Taking up a cause, he said, has become a way for companies to ensure they’re part of the water cooler conversation at the office the next day.
This year, Coca-Cola is using its airtime to fight cyber bullying.
One of four teasers the company released, shows people typing things like “I hate u” and “you’re a total loser” on the Internet before asking the question, “How much more hate can people take?” Each teaser closes with the hashtag #MakeitHappy.