Sustainability themes will dominate Super Bowl LVI automotive ads

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Ted Grozier Principal & Chief Sustainability Officer
Robo-Dog-riding-in-Kia-EV6

One of our top environmental, social, and governance (ESG) predictions for this year anticipates a comprehensive shift from qualitative to quantitative ESG across sectors. The automotive industry is well versed in this trend and many automakers are ahead of the curve – RivianFord, and GM will all launch electric pickups and SUVs this year – innovating to become catalysts for change for the next economy. 

ESG has become a key motivation in the automotive industry

The evolution of the automotive sector on ESG issues continues to accelerate as autonomous, connected, electric, and shared vehicle technologies explode in popularity. Global EV sales are projected to grow 50% or more this year as compared to conventionally powered sales growth of just 2% to 5%. In the next era of personal transportation Americans’ adoption of electric vehicles seems almost guaranteed given features, like being less costly to operate, having lower maintenance and service costs, and being ideal for shorter commutes and errands. Further fueling the EV trend is consumer desire to reduce personal emissions, to drive the latest in vehicular technologies, and to manage rising fuel costs.

If Europe and China are any measure, sales of electric vehicles in the United States will continue to explode. In December, battery-powered cars outsold diesel cars in Europe for the first time. In 18 countries, including Britain, more than 20 percent of new cars were electric.

The New York Times & Matthias Schmidt (Schmidt Automotive Research)

In response to consumer preference and policies that tighten emissions standards, automakers are rolling out new EVs to meet these sustainable frameworks. The auto manufacturers that invest in and implement the right ESG strategies will be positioned for the greatest success. Accordingly, we anticipate that ESG themes will dominate Super Bowl LVI with advertisers jumping at the opportunity to score a touchdown on sustainability messaging.

ESG to star in Super Bowl LVI automotive ads

We expect the following sustainability focus from major automakers:

  • Mercedes-Benz will debut its latest technologies consisting of its fully electric EQS vehicle line, plug-in hybrids, and high-performance technology.
  • BMW will promote its i4 and iX electric vehicles in its aims to claim the intersection of sustainable transportation and luxury.
  • Kia will debut the very first EV under its brand, the EV6. The EV6 is the first of ten highly anticipated electric models from Kia to launch between now and 2026.
  • Hyundai aired its EV commercials during both NFL conference championship games (not waiting for the Super Bowl). The ads highlight its Ioniq 5 amidst a recent announcement that the automaker will cease development of gasoline-powered engines to focus instead on hydrogen and battery technologies.
  • While it’s not clear which brands or vehicles GM will promote during Super Bowl LVI, we hear that Dr. Evil may make an appearance. With ten electric cars on the horizon and a new EV-centric tagline “everybody in,” EVs will likely take center stage in the automakers ads.

Other players in the automotive value chain, Vroom, an online vehicle reseller will use its ads to highlight the need for used vehicle inventory and Wallbox, a smart electric vehicle charging and energy management provider which designs, manufactures, and distributes electric vehicle charging technologies will air its first ad.

Swayable, the causal data platform that predicts public opinion and measures the impact of marketing and advocacy campaigns finds that when it comes to annual Super Bowl advertising, “consumers appear to appreciate and reward companies they recognize for addressing hard problems they care about, and doing the right thing,” which explains the expected emphasis on sustainability in Super Bowl ads. 

Which ads are you looking forward to this year? And more importantly, which automakers will stand out when it comes to taking the lead on ESG performance? Time will tell, fortunately, the Super Bowl is just around the corner.

We’ll follow up here next week with our post-game analysis and highlight the top-three car ads. Stay tuned!

Here is it – our ESG post-game ad analysis 

We asked the Good.Lab Team about their favorite Super Bowl commercials and found the following worthy of further discussion:

  1. Hellmann’s put a spotlight on food waste: we were pleased to see a major food company addressing the pressing issue of food waste in their Super Bowl ad for mayonnaise. Hellman’s also recently made a commitment to achieve Goal Target 12.3 of the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
  2. Irish Spring debuted new packaging: the focus was more on style and aesthetic and to appeal to a younger demographic (one arguably more hip to sustainability and innovation). Regardless, we see this as a missed opportunity to improve their products and long-term business goals by reducing plastics used in packaging or product circularity. More consumer brands are now implementing free recycling and packaging takeback programs; notables on this type of sustainable innovation in the consumer goods sector are Acure Cosmetics, Amika, Arm & Hammer, Aussie, Barilla, Bausch + Lomb, Bic, Staples and Burt’s Bees just to name a few.
  3. Michelob ULTRA promoted its recently released organic seltzer: while not that exciting of a development on its own, large brands can really move the needle on impact when they commit to meaningful ESG targets. Still, we are always pleased to see major brands embracing improved agriculture practices. Michelob launched an initiative along with their organic seltzer release that for every 6-pack sold they put money toward helping farmers convert their land to organic agriculture

And now, for our favorite EV and automotive commercials

It’s the “early stages of the biggest transition in the auto industry since the car was first invented.

Nick Nigro, head of the research group Atlas Public Policy, via Vox
  1.  Along with the assistance of Robo Dog, Kia promoted its new EV6. The automaker has received stunning reviews on its latest vehicle in terms of performance, power, range and charging. On ESG indicators, the Kia EV6 has achieved a product-level carbon footprint certification and the automaker fully recognizes its responsibility to adhere to sustainable practices. Kia is impressively taking a full lifecycle approach to measuring and reducing the EV6’s footprint along with a broader commitment to environmental transparency.
  2. Dr. Evil joined the fight alongside GM to address climate change with the help of the automaker’s new fleet of electric vehicles. ESG strategy is fully embedded into GM’s growth and they recently announced a new $25 million commitment to a climate equity fund aimed at helping to close equity gaps in the transition to electric vehicles and other sustainable technology.
  3. Finally, Polestar stole the show (or at least the commercial breaks) in their efforts to differentiate themselves from other popular EV brands – we won’t name names! We found Polestar’s ad theme of greenwashing particularly interesting, as they described themselves as a car company with “no greenwashing.” The prevalence and increased awareness of greenwashing has more companies scrambling to build an auditable ESG data trail to back up claims. We feel that even the mention of greenwashing brings us to an interesting point of ESG maturity within the market wherein people may begin to take a closer look at what a company’s goals and claims actually are, and whether those claims are actionable and meaningful. The alternative being ESG as a simple box ticking exercise without qualitatively addressing ESG. As we’ve been saying all along, it’s all about that ESG data!

You can view all the Super Bowl commercials that aired this year right here: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/02/13/super-bowl-2022-commercials-live-coverage.html