uper Bowl LI was no doubt full of excitement. The Patriots had an incredible opportunity, and after being down more than 25 points in the first half, they not only made history with their win, but also with their comeback. Pretty exciting, even for this mediocre football fan. But aside from being one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year, the Super Bowl is the only time of year where marketers, brands, and consumers alike look forward to the commercials.


Surprisingly or not, this year’s commercials saw more brands than ever focusing on current events and social-cause messaging. That’s right, several brands decided to forgo the typical upbeat or head-scratching humor and instead took a more heart-wrenching or somber tone.

The risky move brought about backlash for some, including Budweiser, whose pro-immigrant ad, “Born the Hard Way,” saw politically conservative viewers call for a brand boycott. Although Budweiser maintains that current political issues were not the inspiration for the ad, some consumers still responded negatively.


But with great risk came great reward for others. According to the analytics platform Amboee Brand Intelligence, brands that ran social-cause ads—including 84 Lumber, Audi, Expedia, Coke, Airbnb, and Kia—averaged 275% more online chatter on Monday following the game (midnight to 7:30am).


So what makes this kind of marketing so successful?

Along with transparency marketing, social-cause marketing is a type of marketing that builds credibility with your customer base. Showing the human side of your brand makes people take notice and want to learn more about who you are. As with meeting new people, consumers always try to see themselves reflected in brands. If they can find a common thread, they are more willing to take the next step in the relationship—and that usually means they’ll advance further down the sales funnel.


The best way to create a successful social-cause marketing strategy is to do your research. When brands research and identify their audience personas, they can easily map out what makes their customers tick, thus building a strategy that speaks to them. At Storylift, we focus on something we call attitudinal research. This research focuses on consumers’ feelings, predispositions, and motivations—something that marketers often overlook. To learn more about attitudinal targeting, read our blog post here.


Reaching your target with social-cause marketing

Although the $5 million, 30-second Super Bowl ads were highly successful, there really is no other day, night, or event that commands as much attention. So, where is a marketer supposed to focus their advertising dollars?


Social media.


With over 69% of US adults using at least one social media site, the opportunity to reach your exact target audience is huge (can any of us really say this word anymore without thinking yuuuuugggeee?). 


If you have done your research, you’ll find all sorts of social data points that help you identify your target audience’s social-cause support. If we break down our own research, we can see social-cause data about the following groupings of individuals:


  • 5% of females over the age of 55 say they spend, on average, $100 or more per year on charitable donations. This group is also 2 times more likely to support Autism Treatment of America than the general population.
  • 71% of small business owners say they also spend, on average, $100 or more per year on charitable donations. This group is 4.1 times more likely to support No-Shave November than the general population.
  • 32% of Millennials (ages 18-34) say they spend, on average, $100 or more per year on charitable donations. This group is 2.5 times more likely to like the brand PragerU on Facebook.


By knowing this information, we’re now better able to craft content marketing and messages to each of these groups, or align ourselves with causes or organizations that our audience already supports. Content that aligns with recognized social causes is sure to be noticed by our target audience.


The question to ask yourself is, “Who is my target audience, and what social causes do they support?” It’s worth considering and making the necessary adjustments to your marketing strategy. After all, don’t you want to be the one discussed on social media for your marketing risk?