Diversity, Corporate Social Responsibility and the US Superbowl Ads 2017

By Catia Malaquias

In the current political climate in the United States, a number of corporate organisations have used some of the most expensive air time, the Super Bowl 2017, to make powerful statements about diversity and inclusion.  However, it is not the first time that diversity has featured strongly as a theme in the Super Bowl commercial advertisements.  In an article in Forbes magazine on 30 January 2017, marketing Professors Charles R. Taylor and John Murphy wrote:

 “The Super Bowl is a microcosm for observing how marketers are reacting to societal shifts that underscore the need for frequent, realistic, and diverse portrayals of minority groups.”

Some of the Super Bowl 2017 ads are notable for their willingness to make explicit commentary on current social and political issues in the United States and, in particular, cultural diversity and America’s identity as a nation that has welcomed migrants from all over the world.  That messaging taps into consumer market groups, but also reinforces corporate strategy that benefits from diversity and immigration, including foreign talent and drive.  In fact, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and more than 100 other companies are presently challenging reinstatement of a presidential executive order in relation to immigration from certain countries, on the basis that it is bad for their business and talent recruitment as well as being unconstitutional.

The following Super Bowl 2017 ads featured diversity and inclusion as key themes.

84 Lumber

Building supply company 84 Lumber aired the ad “The will to succeed is always welcome here” – about a Mexican woman and her daughter who journey across the desert towards America, only to come up against a “border wall”.



Another ad that had people talking was released by brewing company Budweiser.  It tells the story of its founder, Adolphus Busch, a German immigrant and his journey to the United States to follow his dreams.  In one frame we hear someone say “Welcome to America” and in another someone else yells “Go back home!”.


Coca Cola

Coca Cola too made a similar statement about the United States and the values of cultural diversity when it re-aired its 2014 Super Bowl ad “Its beautiful” featuring the song “America the Beautiful” being sung in several languages – English, Spanish, Keres, Tagalog, Hindi, Senegalese, French, and Hebrew.



The Super Bowl 2017 ad by Expedia, which shows a woman learning about other cultures through travel, also emphasised cultural diversity and our common humanity.



Finally, AirBnb also made a strong statement in its ad “We Accept” with the clear message in text “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.” A hashtag at the end read #WeAccept, which went viral by halftime.


It’s A 10 Hair Care

The ad aired by It’s A 10 Hair Care was one of the few that portrays disability as part of the framework of diversity – it features a wheelchair user and a model with Hypertrichosis alongside a diverse cast, in a tongue-in-cheek message that references the American President’s hair.

This year’s Super Bowl ads demonstrate the potential of inclusive advertising as a communication tool to reinforce positive social messages.  However, they also suggest the much under-realised potential of representing the full range of human diversity – particularly disability – which affects 1 in 5 of the world’s population and intersects with every other major demographic, including cultural and racial diversity, sexual orientation and gender identity.

You can read more about corporate social responsibility and inclusive advertising in our recent report on “Corporate Social Reporting, Diversity and Inclusive advertising – Embracing the Future of Inclusive Advertising in the Retail Sector”.

[Cover photo © AirBnb]

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