3 Cause-Related Superbowl Ads that Made My Spine Tingle

On Sunday night I was busy pinning cause-related Superbowl ads on this Pinterest board. There were three cause-related ads in particular that got my attention and sent shivers down my spine (like a good commercial should!).

Jeep & USO Team Up for "Whole Again"

The best ad of Superbowl night was Whole Again in support of our troops. While the ad didn’t specifically mention the USO, a nonprofit organization that provides programs, services and live entertainment to the troops and their families, its logo appeared next to Jeep’s at the end. The ad is part of Jeep’s Operation SAFE Return program, which is a four point effort to support the troops.

Why it made my spine tingle: This ad had me at hello. And it wasn't Oprah's voice that got my attention. It was the music, which is from one of my favorite shows, HBO's Band of Brothers. If you recognized the music, I bet it stirred up all sorts of thoughts of bravery, dedication and sacrifice for you too. This ad didn't have a transactional component to it (e. g. Jeep will donate a dollar for every time this video is viewed on Youtube), but it didn't need it. The feeling and emotion the ad conveyed was priceless.

Ram Trucks Supports FFA with Paul Harvey, "Farmer"

Why it made my spine tingle: I had never cared for the sound of Paul Harvey's voice before I heard this ad. But it had just the right rhythm and tone for the gripping pictures and story in this ad. As a kid who grew up in the city, Ram Trucks and Paul Harvey told me a great story about the America's farmers.

NFL Players & Coaches stand together to cure ALS

Why it made my spine tingle: For me, this 68 second PSA, which wasn't shown on TV but rather on the jumbotron at the Superbowl before the start of the game (Hat tip to Nonprofit Quarterly for catching this one), got interesting at the 48 second mark. Check it out and let me know if you agree!

Which cause-related ad made your spine tingle?

Raise More Money From Businesses with Donation Boxes


Donation boxes - also called coin canisters - are one of the simplest and cheapest ways to raise money from businesses. The action happens at the register after customers buy something and they drop a few coins, or a buck or two, into a donation box. Sometimes the cashier gives the shopper a nudge - "We're raising money to help the troops" - but often not. That's why I call it passive cause marketing.

A lot of nonprofits have written off donation boxes as a lousy way to raise money from businesses. As one nonprofit executive explained to me: "They don't raise a lot of money and they're just kind of a hassle. Coins are heavy!"

I have to agree on the latter. I remember loading so many coins into my trunk I thought my back bumper would scrape the pavement. But I've raised a lot of money from donation boxes. I bet you can too - if you pick the right business and correctly execute the program.

One nonprofit that's doing just that is the USO. I met two employees from this great organization, which has been serving our troops for 70 years, at Cause Marketing Forum in May and followed up with a phone call last week to get a few more details on their successes. Thanks to Gayle Fishel, Cathy Martens and Margie Kirst for their time!

The USO has raised millions with donation boxes. Here's what they and I have learned.

Target busy stores. Like pinups, the busier the business the more money you'll raise. It's a numbers game in that your odds improve as you see more people. Sure, you can put a donation box in a tailor's shop. But how many customers does a tailor see each day? Not as many as a supermarket, coffee shop, or bakery sees. The USO knows this firsthand as a key partner for their donation boxes is Kangaroo Express convenience stores. These busy stores have over 1,600 location in 13 states.

Cash is king. A while back a car dealership called me about doing donation boxes. I told them to think of something else. How many people are buying cars with cash, much less quarters, nickels and dimes? Target businesses where people pay with cash. It's not surprising that my most successful coin canister program was with a bagel shop. People would buy a bagel and coffee for a few bucks and drop their change in the donation box.

No tips allowed. Tip jars are popular at many businesses. But your coin canister won't be if you try to replace the tip jar or include it on the counter. Employees count on these tips. I once asked a Starbucks barista how much they made from the tip jar every week: $50 per person. That's a nice little bonus for someone making eight bucks an hour. If you include your canister alongside the tip jar it won't be there for long.

Front and center. I've seen donation boxes in the most bizarre locations, including one in the men's bathroom at a store. It certainly got my attention! But the best place for a donation box is right in front of the cash register. I like to say, "Don't give people an excuse to say no." A donation box anywhere except in front of the register is just begging to be ignored. There are other ways to put your donation box front and center. The USO and Kangaroo Express turned their program into a real event. Patriotic show cars visited stores and customers showed their appreciation for troops with recorded messages aired on the Salute Our Troops website.

Security is key. Theft is a big problem with donation boxes, especially with the small, round canisters with the slot in the top. It's demoralizing to the business and the nonprofit when they get swiped. My partner, Finagle a Bagel, stopped theft by investing in heavy-duy donation boxes that were locked and bolted to the counter. But this isn't economical if you have a business partner such as Kangaroo Express with hundreds of stores. You'll have to invest in something cheaper, but whatever you choose, security should be a priority. Kangaroo Express asks its employees to empty the canisters daily.

Donation boxes are an easy business fundraiser that involves little heavy lifting - until you have to pick up all the coins. Have you tried donation boxes before? Did you have a good or bad experience?