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3p Weekend: The Best (Cause Marketing) Super Bowl Ads of All Time


With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

The perennial frenzy over Super Bowl ads is upon us. As we gear up for the biggest game of the year, it always seems like half the viewers are more excited about the commercials than anything else. So, before we turn on our TVs this Sunday, let's take a moment to recognize companies that used their million-dollar ad spots for something bigger than themselves. Grab a tissue, you may need it.

1. Bank of America, "U2 'Invisible'"

U2 frontman Bono has long been an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness, and during last year's Super Bowl, he teamed up with Bank of America to bring the cause to the national stage. For 24 hours after the spot aired, viewers were offered a free iTunes download of U2's "Invisible." For each download, Bank of America donated $1 to help end mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The project yielded more than 3 million downloads -- and more than $3 million for Project (RED).

2. Chevrolet, "Life -- #PurpleYourProfile"

Another hit from last year's Super Bowl, this Chevy ad celebrates cancer survivors and those still doing battle with the disease. It connected to the automaker's #PurpleYourProfile social media campaign, which called on viewers to turn their Facebook and Twitter profile pictures purple in honor of World Cancer Day. Chevrolet contributed $1 to the American Cancer Society for every purple profile and raised its max of $1 million during the campaign.

3. Intuit's #TeamSmallBiz and GoldieBlox

Last year, Intuit launched its #TeamSmallBiz campaign to bring a small business to the big stage for the first time. Users voted, and GoldieBlox -- which creates engineering toys "made for girls" -- came out victorious, with funding from Intuit to create an ad spot for the big game. The company's commercial during last year's Super Bowl did not disappoint. We could practically hear all the young girls of America tossing their dollies out the window.

4. Bud Light, "Rescue Dog Weego"

This cute and clever cause marketing campaign aired during Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. It tied into a Facebook campaign on Bud Light's page, which rewarded each like with a $1 donation to Tony LaRussa's Animal Rescue Foundation. The campaign raised $250,000 to support animal rescue.

5. Budweiser, "A Hero's Welcome"

A group of veterans in Winter Park, Florida, wanted to give a local soldier "the loving welcome home that they never received," Business Insider reported before this ad spot aired during last year's Super Bowl. With the help of Budweiser, they gave 24-year-old Lt. Chuck Nad a "hero's welcome." The tear-jerking ad hit home with viewers, and millions participated in Budweiser's #Salute social media campaign, which encouraged consumers to honor our veterans.

6. Chipotle, "Back to the Start"

Back in 2012, Chipotle landed its first national ad spot during the Super Bowl. The company used the opportunity to present its sustainable philosophy in a two-minute film. The haunting ad, which features Coldplay's "The Scientist," was ahead of its time and surely stood out from amped-up ads for processed snack foods. After drying their tears (admit it, you welled up there in the middle), viewers were encouraged to download the short film on iTunes, with proceeds benefiting the Chipotle Cultivation Foundation.

Sneak Preview: Always, "#LikeAGirl" for Super Bowl XLIX

Get ready for all the feels. But look at it this way: If you watch it now, you (probably) won't start welling up when your friends are over for the big game.

Editor's Note: A representative from Chipotle contacted TriplePundit to inform us that its "Back to the Start" ad campaign launched during the 2012 Grammy Awards, not the Super Bowl. We still like the ad, though, and stand by its position as a trend-setter that helped bring cause marketing to the mainstream.

Image credit: Flickr/tripletri

Mary Mazzoni is the Senior Editor of TriplePundit. You can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni headshotMary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni, Senior Editor, has written for TriplePundit since 2013. She is also Managing Editor of CR Magazine and the Editor of 3p’s Sponsored Series. Her recent work can be found in Conscious Company and VICE’s Motherboard. She is based in Philadelphia.

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