Super Bowl Ads That Got it Right: Aligning With Their Inner Champion Brand

Bill DalbecBill Dalbec is senior vice president of APCO Insight, the opinion research group at APCO.

On the day after the Super Bowl, most of the talk and reporting centered not on the thrilling game or 31-minute blackout delay or Beyoncé’s performance (OK, there was quite a bit of coverage of her), but on the commercials: the perennial quest by advertisers to one-up each other and win the coveted USA Today Ad Meter. Like many in the communications profession, I anxiously awaited the start of the ad parade, er game, and have my own thoughts on the ads. Some were entertaining, others endearing, and still others perplexing. At least one pushed the boundaries of good taste and was roundly criticized by professionals and consumers alike.

However, three ads stood above the others for me. Like many other viewers and critics, I, too, enjoyed and appreciated Anheuser-Busch InBev’s “Budweiser Brotherhood” aka “Clydesdale,” Ram Truck’s “Farmer,” and Jeep’s “Whole Again.”  Yes, each ad pulled at one’s heartstrings and played to emotion. Yes, each told a story and was long form (1 minute for Bud and 2 minutes each for Ram and Jeep). Each used compelling images, two incorporated music which drove the story forward and two featured iconic and gripping narrators. For me, the emotion in the ads rang true and seemed from the heart because each ad tapped into multiple dimensions (Alignment, Authenticity, Attachment and Advocacy) identified in our Champion Brand Model, which we refer to as the Four A’s:
The Four As

  • Alignment: meeting stakeholders’ most important expectations
  • Authenticity: acting in a way that is consistent with what a company says
  • Attachment: the extent to which stakeholders connect emotionally with a company
  • Advocacy: advocating on behalf of stakeholders’ interests, applying unique expertise and assets to add value to society.

The Clydesdale ad worked for Budweiser because it tapped into its Champion Brand DNA, where we discovered consumers relate to Anheuser-Busch in terms of alignment, authenticity, and attachment. The Clydesdale horses are well-established symbols of Budweiser, and many Americans have never seen a Clydesdale that is not part of the Budweiser team. Many Americans have an affinity for “The King of Beers” and its American heritage, particularly out in the heartland. Yet, Budweiser falls short, as does it parent company, in terms of advocacy. Sure, the horse is majestic and the story is touching, but there could be more; the company could use its leadership position and ability to speak to its stakeholders to add value to society. It’s one of the reasons it’s not a Champion Brand.

The ads from Chrysler brands Ram and Jeep came into the ad bowl with high expectations, following on the success of the 2011 Eminem “Imported from Detroit” Chrysler 200 spot and 2012 Clint Eastwood “It’s Halftime in America” ad, both paying homage to Chrysler’s hometown of Detroit, the hard times the city (and country in 2012) had endured, and how those challenges had enabled each to emerge even stronger, much like Chrysler itself. This year’s offerings took a different tact: saluting the heritage of the brands and driving to advocate on behalf of its consumers. These two ads clearly tapped into the two strongest dimensions of Chrysler’s brand: authenticity and advocacy.

  • For Ram, it’s by saluting the farmer who is at least as tough as its trucks and a critical piece of the fabric of this nation, but one that is often overlooked. The ad reminds us of the people who feed us and to value and thank them. If you go to Ram’s website, you’ll see it is donating $1 per ad view to FFA to help the next generation of farmers. Moreover, according to Autotrader, Ram page views increased 55 percent in the aftermath of the ad running, certainly achieving one of its goals of driving consumers to learn more about them.
  • For Jeep, it’s remembering that it all started for the company in World War II and that the devotion of our GIs commercialized the product; in their ad, they are giving back to those who gave them their start. Since September 11, 2001, the men and women in our military have been more prominent in our country and our lives; millions of Americans pray for and thank these heroes every day for what they do to help keep us safe. Jeep salutes them and goes a step further by prominently displaying the USO logo alongside its own in the closing frame. Go to Jeep’s website and you’ll learn more about their commitment to Operation S.A.F.E. Return in partnership with the USO. Autotrader reports that Jeep page views rose 61 percent after the ad ran.

Chrysler isn’t a Champion Brand because for too long its cars didn’t meet our needs and there has been a profound lack of an emotional connection or excitement around the brand. Perhaps these commercials can help strengthen attachment while operations deal with alignment.

It may sound simple, but a company that knows itself and its stakeholders can do good. The Chrysler spots are testaments to that put into action, this time in the form of an advertisement.

I welcome your thoughts on which other ads may have tapped into the 4As.

Posted on February 5, 2013 By Bill Dalbec
Categories  Reputation, Research and tagged , , , , , , , , ,
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