Marketing’s Changemakers: why Stella Artois is using the Super Bowl to plug its partnership with Water.org

Stella's Super Bowl spot explains that water isn't something we should take for granted

Welcome to Marketing’s Changemakers, a new series from The Drum that tells the stories of brands trying to change the world in ways both big and small. Here, Stella Artois vice president of marketing Harry Lewis reveals why the brand is using its Super Bowl spot to explain how viewers can help it provide clean water to those in need.

This year, Stella Artois was the first brand to release its Super Bowl LII commercial in full ahead of the game. While it’s become common practice in recent years for advertisers to reveal their spots - or at least tease them - before the game kicks off, Stella’s reasoning for doing so is straightforward: the beer brand wants its message to reach as many people as humanly possible.

“What we’re all about is getting as many people involved and as many eyeballs on our content for a good cause,” says Lewis.

The good cause in question is Stella’s ongoing ‘Buy a Lady a Drink’ campaign, the result of an ongoing partnership between the brand and Water.org, a nonprofit dedicated to providing people around the world with access to safe water and sanitation. According to Stella, more than 663 million people are impacted by the global water crisis today.

In the brand’s Super Bowl ad, which was created by Mother, co-founder of Water.org and actor Matt Damon explains that millions of people in the developing world walk up to six hours every day just to get water. He then encourages people to consider purchasing one of the brand’s signature chalices, the proceeds of which will go to Water.org. For every $13 limited-edition chalice sold, $3.13 will be donated to the nonprofit.

“If just 1% of people watching the Super Bowl buy one of these chalices, we can provide this basic need to more than one million people for five years,” Lewis says.

For those who don’t want to purchase a chalice, there are still ways to donate. From Jan. 15 through April 15, every purchase of a Stella Artois 12-pack will help Water.org provide 12 months of clean water for one person in the developing world. Additionally, the purchase of one pint or bottle of Stella at a bar will help provide one month of clean water.

“The brand is intrinsically embedded in providing the solution to this and making it very easy for anyone to participate,” Lewis states.

Stella’s Super Bowl spot is the Anheuser-Busch InBev brand’s biggest effort to date to spread the word about its partnership with Water.org, which is now in its fourth year. In 2015, Stella began working with Damon and his fellow Water.org co-founder Gary White to help raise money for and spread awareness of the organization via ‘Buy a Lady a Drink,’ which Lewis says began as a social campaign but grew into a larger one when the brand realized it was strongly resonating with its audience.

Since the campaign’s inception, Stella claims it has helped provide more than one million people in the developing world with access to five years of clean water through the sale of more than 500,000 chalices. The brand has also directly donated more than $8m to the charity since the two started working together. Last year, Stella Artois and Water.org set the goal of providing 3.5 million people with long-term, sustainable access to clean water by 2020.

The money donated to Water.org is used to support the organization’s WaterCredit initiative, which allows people in need to access small loans for water connections or toilets. Once a loan is repaid, it goes to the next person who needs it, which Stella says starts a “cycle of new opportunity for entire communities.”

While Stella will have to compete with other charitable messages from brands on Super Bowl Sunday, like Budweiser’s spot about its philanthropic water giveaway efforts and Hyundai’s ad featuring its pediatric cancer nonprofit Hope on Wheels, the brand is hoping that its 30 seconds of airtime will make people realize that water isn’t as ubiquitous as we might think - and that there are simple steps one can take to help.

So far, Stella’s early release of its game day spot seems to be giving it the boost it hoped for: according to marketing technology company Amobee, digital content engagement around Stella has increased by 46% in the two weeks since the spot came out. Water.org has also enjoyed a bump from the spot’s reveal, with engagement rising a whopping 281%.

Despite Damon being tangled up in controversy due to his unsavory comments about the #MeToo movement, Amobee claims his words haven’t had much of an effect on the actor's charitable efforts: according to the firm, out of the 252 tweets that have mentioned both Water.org and Damon since the ad came out on Jan. 16, zero of them have been negative against the nonprofit.

At the end of the day, Lewis says the biggest takeaway he wants viewers to have after seeing the spot is that those who donate are not only giving safe water to those in need, but also giving them hours and hours of time back that can be spent in school, working and with family.

“By giving the gift of water, we can also give them the gift of their time back,” he says.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.