Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Super Bowl Ads: 5 Companies That Weren't Afraid to Take a Political Risk

By Jo Piazza

There's no shame in watching the Super Bowl for the ads or the halftime show or just because Donald Trump bet on the Patriots and you became a fair-weather Falcons fan.

But this year -- amidst political turmoil, daily protests and corporate boycotts -- those ads took on a whole new meaning, and more than a few corporations made an effort to share an inspiring message through their multimillion-dollar ad spend.

The political undertones this year included things like inclusion, equal pay and the American Dream. In any other year, these topics would be near-universally celebrated. But in our politically divisive environment, anything construed to be in favor of either side of the aisle was bound to elicit partisan feedback and derision on social media.

These ads prove that it's now up to corporations more than ever to take a stand for the things they believe are ethical and right.


The home-sharing company touted the message of acceptance in a spot that immediately went viral. The text of the ad read: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”



An ad advocating for equal pay for women should not be considered subversive in this day and age. But in Trump's America, it apparently is. In the ad, a dad is watching his daughter participate in a soap box derby, wondering whether she will be unfairly judged in the race, and in life, because she is a girl.

"What do I tell my daughter?" the dad ponders. "Do I tell her that her grandpa is worth more than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom? That despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets? Or maybe I'll be able to tell her something different."

Audi's executive team explained that it's possible to enlighten and entertain at the same time:

"You can entertain by doing one of two things to speak to all America but still do something that you can be proud of as a luxury brand," Loren Angelo, vice president of marketing for Audi of America, told Forbes.



What should have been a celebration of American diversity triggered a knee-jerk reaction from some of the very worst Internet trolls and a viral #BoycottCoke campaign which appeared seconds after the ad aired. In the ad, the lyrics to "America the Beautiful' are sung in English, Spanish, Keres, Tagalog, Hindi, Senegalese, French and Hebrew.

The ad was actually a repeat from a 2014 ad that has been replayed numerous times with much less controversy.



Budweiser faced a boycott leading up to the Super Bowl for its seemingly pro-immigration advertisement -- despite the fact that the company released a statement claiming the ad was produced prior to President Donald Trump's controversial immigrant ban.

The ad depicts Budweiser’s German founder Adolphus Busch traveling to the United States with the dream of brewing beer. Along the way,  Busch is treated poorly because he doesn’t “look like he’s from around here.” The ultimate message is that “nothing stops your dream.”


84 Lumber

The company's site crashed with viewers eager to watch the full story of a mother and child attempting to cross the American border on their path toward immigration and citizenship.


Image credit: Flickr/Texas.713

Jo Piazza is an award-winning reporter and editor who has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the New York Daily News, New York Magazine, Glamour, Marie Claire, Elle and Salon. She has appeared on CNN, NPR, Fox News, the BBC and MSNBC. Her novel, The Knockoff, with Lucy Sykes became an instant international bestseller and has been translated into more than seven languages.

Jo received a Masters in Journalism from Columbia, a Masters in Religious Studies from NYU and a Bachelors in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed If Nuns Ruled the World and Celebrity Inc: How Famous People Make Money.

She currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and their giant dog. Her latest book <a href="http://www.howtobemarried.us">How to Be Married</a> will be released in April.

Read more stories by Jo Piazza