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Super Bowl 2015

Fulfilling the Super Bowl’s Greatest Potential – a Call to Arms for the World’s Marketers, 2 years, 7 months ago

Brands can do much more good for society than just entertain. enso’s Sebastian Buck & Brian Hardwick explain

Fulfilling the Super Bowl’s Greatest Potential – a Call to Arms for the World’s Marketers

For the big game, neighborhoods gather, time stops and the nation is acutely focused on one single event – a rare moment when most of the time we’re off in many different directions. 111.5 million viewers on average tune in to the Super Bowl, but in most cases, it’s not about the NFL or even the football; it’s about a social cultural gathering. 

Marketers spend huge sums (over $4M on a single Super Bowl ad) for the opportunity to be a part of our largest gathering, to try and put a dent in culture for 30 seconds. Many question the ROI of those efforts, but for us, it’s a different question: what is the greatest potential of this Super Bowl opportunity? In our view, the true ROI of the Super Bowl – and any advertising for that matter – is the potential impact on both business and the wider world, not how many views or shares your ad generated. 

With hundreds of millions tuned in, it got us thinking: what could be sparked? Revolutions have started with much humbler beginnings, from the right to vote to civil rights to gay rights. And we’ve seen the power of individual cultural sparks, ideas that lead to so much more, from JFK’s historic ‘61 Congress speech that propelled the nation to the moon, to Obama’s ‘04 convention speech that began his roll from junior Senator all the way to the White House. There’s huge potential to ignite something with the oxygen of the entire nation’s attention, inspired and engaged all at once. 

Brands could begin their Super Bowl process with the impact, both for their business and the world, in mind. They could approach it in a way that could be a win for their business and a win for society; something everyone could get behind. By starting with a collective goal for positive impact, brands can set the bar higher than views and shares — they could set an ambition to inspire and arm people to join them in reshaping the world, building a relationship that endures beyond the 30 seconds or the first quarter (game or year). 

We’ve seen some of the great brands venture in this direction before, including Chrysler’s Halftime in America, Apple’s Think Different, and Always’ #LikeAGirl during this year’s game. But what if bold statements of values were associated with a meaningful way for people to take action around the things they care about? This is the big Super Bowl opportunity: to massively propel business success alongside impact in the world. 

So what might this look like? Squarespace tried to stand apart from the crowd by putting us to sleep with Jeff Bridges, but what if it awoke our creative passion and created a way for us to help foster the next generation of artists and creators, starting with its platform?

GoDaddy saluted small business owners and asked us to claim a domain, but it could galvanize us in an effort to equip every new business and high school graduate with the skills and tools of the web, including its own.

Mercedes-Benz sought to appeal to a younger audience with animated characters in a very old fable, but it could tap into what young people really thirst for: to be part of something meaningful. A car brand that shared our values would achieve significantly greater business success.

Over 111 million viewers. That’s potentially 111 million amazing contributions to the betterment, ideas, thoughts, expressions and creativity in our society. We all like to be entertained during the Super Bowl; but as younger generations become just as interested in how a business contributes to society as they are in its products and profits, brands can position themselves as much more than entertainers and as mobilizers and problem solvers of the world’s biggest issues. Not that we don’t love another good puppy.

Sebastian Buck is co-founder and strategic lead, and Brian Hardwick is messaging and activation lead at Enso, an agency that helps brands align business success with social impact.