Super Bowl + Sustainability

by | Feb 7, 2019

Shelton Stat

63% of Americans say that a company’s environmental reputation has a moderate to strong impact on their purchase decisions (Eco Pulse 2018).

Sustainability Win of the Week

An astounding 110+ million people watched the Super Bowl this past Sunday – and chances are, some of them watched just for the ads.

Given the high number of eyeballs (a rarity in today’s on-demand media environment), Super Bowl ads are not cheap – this year’s air time clocked in at over $5 million per 30-second slot. So, when a company releases a sustainability or CSR-themed commercial during the Super Bowl, it signifies a major commitment. Or at least it signifies a willingness to spend a lot of money on a message a company thinks will resonate with Americans. If you follow our Pulse® research, or glance at the stat above, you know Americans expect companies to stand for something other than making money; and if they find that stand believable – i.e., if a company is willing to forego money or spend a lot of money to stand behind what they believe in – they will both buy the brand and advocate to their friends and family on behalf of their brand. So, as we’d say in our world, it’s “on strategy” for a brand to take a stand and tout it in their marketing. Thus, a sustainability-themed Super Bowl ad for some brands is simply a way to be on strategy, differentiate and make a splash all at the same time.

But real commitment looks like spending the money for a sustainability-themed Super Bowl ad year after year. And who wins the prize for serious, sustained commitment? Anheuser-Busch, the maker/distributor of Budweiser and an assortment of other beers, including Stella Artois, Goose Island and everyone’s favorite, the Lima-A-Rita.

This year’s Budweiser commercial, for instance, highlighted the message “Brewed with Wind Power for a Better Tomorrow” (advertising the brand’s renewable energy commitments). Last year’s was about water: Budweiser’s production and distribution of canned drinking water for hurricane disaster relief. Last year Stella Artois also leveraged the Super Bowl to promote their Chalice program designed to bring clean water to the developing world (this year they went in a totally different direction). And in 2017, Budweiser’s ad covered the topic of immigration – a hot-button issue then and now. If the trend continues, one might expect an ad on farming and soil health next year, or perhaps one on workers’ rights or product distribution.

Runner-up goes to Audi, which released an ad to publicize the brand’s work on electrification. The ad – an odd one – features an office worker choking on a cashew who, in a state of delirium, discovers Audi’s futuristic electric vehicles in a barn (it doesn’t make complete sense). The ad closes with the message that one-third of Audi’s lineup will be fully electrified by 2025. Audi has used the Super Bowl before to tout their green creds – remember the “Green Police” ad from 2010? The problem, of course, is that Audi is owned by Volkswagen, and their diesel cars were cheating the air emissions/regulatory system. Anybody who drove one thinking they were doing something positive for the environment – like me – is likely forever resentful and looks at Audi/Volkswagen green claims with disdain, irony or at least an eye roll. Which would be a really good reason not to spend Super Bowl money to put it out there. Perhaps their research says folks like me are in the minority and it’s worth the risk.

Other than these ads – as well as two socially oriented ads (Microsoft’s “We All Win” ad about disability-friendly gaming controllers and the Washington Post’s “Knowing Keeps Us Free” campaign) – the rest were relatively commitment-free this year (Google’s ad about helping Veterans find jobs probably deserves an honorable mention, though). As Thomas Kolster puts it in his opinion piece in Sustainable Brands: at a time when most brands are “playing it safe” and advertising merely to “wow consumers into buying more,” the CSR-minded companies and ads really do stand out. Which is a great reason to tell your sustainability story anytime – but especially during moments when we’re all brought together around the screen.


News of the Week

In EV100 initiative, 31 companies join drive to switch to electric vehicles – GreenBiz

More than 30 companies have joined the pledge to transition their road fleets to electric vehicles as part of the Climate Group’s EV100 plan. The initiative aims to electrify 2 million vehicles by 2030 – and to encourage improvements in infrastructure to facilitate EV charging. The Climate Group’s first-ever report on EV100 was published this past weekend and includes additional statistics on projected carbon emissions reductions.

Walmart, Target, 100+ others saved $19.3B through sustainability – Supply Chain Dive

Here’s what happens when sustainability trickles down through the supply chain: immense carbon reductions and incredible financial savings. A new study from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) analyzed procurement spending of 115 major corporations based on the sustainability performance of their suppliers. According to CDP, “modern businesses generally have primary carbon emissions five times smaller than their supply chains”; therefore, promoting best practices in the supply chain is crucial to achieving overall carbon footprint reduction and cost savings.

When it comes to sustainability, how does YOUR company stack up?

We’ve interviewed sustainability leaders and gathered their advice for what it takes to successfully bake sustainability into a corporate structure. Learn the stages of corporate sustainability – from initial strategy to final implementation – and get the game plan to achieve a competitive advantage by mobilizing your team.

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Mark Smith

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Suzanne Shelton

President and CEO

Suzanne is the voice and the vision of Shelton Group. Drawing on her extensive experience in energy and the environment – and 25+ years in the marketing and advertising industry – Suzanne provides high-level strategic insights for our clients and guidance for our research and creative departments. She regularly speaks at conferences around the country, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and the International Builders’ Show, and serves as a guest columnist for publications like Fast Company, Green Builder and

Susannah Enkema

VP Research & Insights

Susannah directs our research team and plays a key role in extracting the nuggets of information that pave the way for recommended marketing strategies and creative approaches. Susannah has nearly two decades of market research and strategy experience, including her role as president of SE Consulting, where she led the services for the likes of DIY Network and the makers of GORE-TEX®.

Matt Brass

VP Creative

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing campaigns. He ensures sound strategy and deep insights inform everything his team develops, and works closely with the accounts department to ensure copy and designs will meet our clients’ goals. As a designer and filmmaker himself, he’s also a principal contributor to all of Shelton’s in-house photography and videography work.

Courtnay Hamachek

VP Operations

Courtnay oversees our day-to-day operations to keep us running smoothly and support our growth. She establishes project management systems and processes to help our teams anticipate bottlenecks, prevent process issues, and keep projects on time and on target. Courtnay has built extensive experience over 25 years in all aspects of marketing, from account services and project management to design and production.

Aaron Crecy

Digital Marketing Director

Aaron is responsible for planning, executing and measuring digital marketing strategies for Shelton Group and our clients, with an emphasis on inbound, content, SEO, social media, email and paid initiatives. He constantly researches and explores new tactics and strategies to improve digital campaign performance and results.

Aaron brings to the table more than 20 years of marketing leadership experience with premium consumer-facing brands. He came to Shelton Group by way of Malibu Boats, where, as Director of Global Marketing, he oversaw strategic marketing planning and execution for multiple product lines, with specific emphasis on social media and digital. Prior to that, he served as CMO for a leading daily fantasy sports operator, guiding it from startup to the industry’s third-ranked site.

Scot Case

Senior Consultant

A sustainability strategy consultant since 1993, Scot has served as non-profit leader, as a partner in an environmental marketing firm that he grew and sold, and as an executive in a multi-billion-dollar, international company. He has published dozens of articles and case studies, was co-author of the original “Sins of Greenwashing” study, testified before Congress, and been quoted on NPR, Good Morning America, CNN, The New York Times, Business Week, and the Wall Street Journal. Scot was also highlighted in an Emmy award-winning documentary on sustainable purchasing.

Casey Ward

VP Account Services

Casey manages our relationships, growth and development with a specific group of clients that includes Environmental Defense Fund, Cotton LEADS and CertainTeed Insulation. She provides leadership and support for the account team members who manage the day-to-day processes for these clients. She contributes to strategic direction for each client and guides our creative efforts to ensure everything we do builds toward meeting – or exceeding – the client’s goals. Her ability to simultaneously see the big picture and pay close attention to the details helps her champion her clients’ needs and identify new growth opportunities for them.