Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad hints at change in sustainability storytelling

by Feb 1, 2018

It’s that time of year again. Tom Brady is at the jeweler getting his fingers measured, Bill Belichick is finalizing specs on a championship hoodie, and Budweiser is churning out Super Bowl commercials.

This year, however, Budweiser is launching an ad that may be indicative of things to come in sustainability storytelling.

At first glance, you may not think that canning water for post-natural disaster distribution has much to do with sustainability. For that matter, Budweiser may not see what this ad has to do with sustainability, but here’s my take.

In coming years, real brand leadership in the area of sustainability/the environment will shift from prevention to response. Climate change isn’t coming – it’s here. Calls for you to help prevent climate change will soon be replaced by expectations for you to mitigate and provide relief from its disastrous effects.

Intentional or not, Budweiser’s spot plays perfectly into this scenario.

Creatively, it feels a little saccharine to me, it’s a little overly polished, and it lacks humility. It would have been nice if it felt a little more authentic and a little less “corporate America to the rescue.” That said, it has a nice production value and, despite my concerns, it will likely play well – not just to the general public, but also for Anheuser-Busch employees, current and future. The trends we track increasingly point to CSR efforts playing a more critical role in recruitment and retention, and Variety reported that Anheuser-Busch hopes this spot will rally their employee base by helping to define the company’s purpose.


Climate change and finding your purpose

This is not unique. I recently had a client tell me, “Our people want to know what the hell we stand for.” More and more, corporations are beginning to realize the power of purpose.

Consumers aren’t far behind in these desires either. Our data shows that when Millennials trust a brand’s environmental and social business practices, 95% of them recommend their products to others. In addition, the number of Americans who can name a specific brand preference based on the company’s environmental record has nearly tripled over the last three years.

So, the business case for maintaining a well-defined position in sustainability is strong. But, the playing field is getting crowded. Lots of companies are vying for leadership in this space, and it’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish yourself. That’s why expanding that position to include a response to climate change effects is ripe with opportunity. Budweiser’s water actions are low-hanging fruit. But as things progress, the impending impacts of climate change will open many other possibilities.

Pay attention, look for opportunities to claim your leadership position, and provide support in areas that relate to your brand (i.e., Budweiser providing hydration). Whether it’s drought solutions, food storage and distribution, heating and cooling needs, pumps to combat rising sea levels – the list goes on – find something your company has the expertise to provide leadership in. The impacts of the now inevitable two-degree increase in global temperatures will continue to mount. And your meaningful response is good for everyone.

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About the Author

Matt Brass

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing all campaigns and collateral. With nearly two decades of marketing design under his belt, Matt has extensive experience in design, photography and videography, as well as blogging about the latest and greatest (or worst) ad campaigns out there. He leads our team on kayaking trips, too.

1 Comment

  1. Nancy

    Great post, Matt!

    I agree, and believe this is intentional by Budweiser. Not only is this spot an effort to “rally their employee base”, it is also intended to increase trust with Millennial consumers. As stated in your Millennial Pulse report, “Millennials see Big Guys as a potential source for good in the world,” when it comes to their environmental and social/business practices. And Anheuser-Busch is a Big Guy.

    Established U.S. brewers have faced a competitive market in recent years where customers, many of them Millennials, increasingly turn to craft beers. While everyone loves a heartfelt animal story, Millennial customers support companies that do good. That’s where this Budweiser Super Bowl spot will score. It will also go where these customers are and play well on social media.

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