Jumping on the CSR Bandwagon

It is no longer enough for a brand to simply offer a product or service. Consumers expect more from brands. A 2015 study by Cone Communications found that 91% of global consumers expect companies to do more than just make a profit. They also expect companies to operate responsibly and address social and environmental issues. So much so, that 66% of global consumers say they’re willing to pay more for sustainable brands.

In the wake of this trend, businesses have responded by promoting their corporate social responsibility initiatives. CSR practices contribute to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits but the best practices directly relate to the companies mission.

Starbucks for example, has earned its name as a good corporate citizen by committing to sell sustainable and ethically sourced coffee beans. Patagonia is another company that has received high praises for its drive to find solutions to the environmental crisis.

For as many companies out there that are doing their part to operate responsibly, there are just as many who piggyback on philanthropic causes for brand promotion.

A noticeable trend in this year’s Super Bowl was the number of brands who centered their ads around their organizations CSR. With the cost of a 30 second spot costing upwards of $5 million, viewers expect only the best. This year, however; one brand in particular fell short of expectations.

For this year’s Super Bowl, Belgian brewery Stella Artois partnered with Water.org. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide access to clean water and sanitation in the developing world. In the ad, Matt Damon, a co-founder of the organization made a bold promise: Buy a limited edition Stella Artois chalice and your money will help give clean water to one million people in need, for five years.

At first glance it appeared as if Stella was promoting its CSR, but a closer look at the fine print led viewers to question Stella Artois’ true intention. Was its goal to provide clean drinking water to those desperately in need, or were they just trying to make a profit?


The chalices are sold on amazon for $13 a piece, with $3.13 from each glass sold benefiting Water.org. Stella Artois caps the number of glasses for sale at 300,000. Assuming the Belgian brewery sells all 300,000, Stella Artois will rake in $2,961,000 in profits while donating $939,000 to Water.org.

The response to this ad has been overwhelmingly negative with Stella Artois being accused of hopping on the bandwagon of a philanthropic cause to generate media attention. Critics of the brand ask why Stella spent $5 million on the Super Bowl ad when that money could have gone directly to Water.org. Further, why is Stella keeping 76% of profits earned from the sales of these chalices?

It’s important to remember that the Super Bowl ad was just as much of an advertisement for Stella as it was for Water.org but the ad disappointed in delivery. Despite the fact that Stella Artois has already made a positive impact in water-insecure communities, its Super Bowl ad failed in promoting the brands corporate social responsibility and came across as just another brand using a nonprofit to garner publicity.

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