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Social Responsibility and the Super Bowl


The Super Bowl™ is over for another year. Congrats to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos for winning it all. (Peyton: hang up the spurs now, bud. Go out on top — don’t go all Brett Favre on us and screw this up…)

As good as the game was this year, what really stood out to us about Super Bowl 50 was how many of the commercials focused on corporate responsibility. Budweiser called out irresponsible drinking in a strikingly direct way. (If you drive drunk, you’re a “a Darwin Award-deserving selfish coward.”) Pantene championed women’s empowerment by showing how good dads help their daughters turn into strong, beautiful women.

But one in particular really jumped out at us: Colgate’s commercial about turning off the water while you brush your teeth.

In case you missed it, the 30-second ad featured a short shot of a man’s back while he brushed his teeth at the bathroom vanity – with the faucet running. Then, the ad showed us all what you could do with all the water that typically runs down the drain while you brush your teeth. (Ex: two girls from a developing country drinking it, someone using it to wash an apple, etc.)

There wasn’t even a direct tie to a Colgate product in the entire advertisement – just a “don’t waste water” message and the Colgate logo at the end. So what exactly was going on here?

Had Colgate forgotten to market their actual product?

Or had they decided (in an act of sustainability and benevolence) to ignore the bottom line and instead spend millions of dollars focusing on water conservation?

The truth (as you no doubt realize) is that neither is true.

Colgate’s ad is irrefutable evidence that US companies are finally starting to see the value of integrated CSR efforts – and beginning to build it into external marketing strategies. Modern audiences care about social responsibility – and are more apt to purchase products from companies that “do the right thing.” Sustainability is no longer a side stage attraction – in the minds of the general public, it’s a main attraction.

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