bud light seltzer super bowl ad
Revisit some of the best 2021 Super Bowl ads
02:55 - Source: CNN Business

Editor’s Note: Barron Segar is President and CEO of World Food Program USA, an organization based in Washington, DC, that supports the mission of the United Nations World Food Programme by mobilizing American policymakers, businesses and individuals to advance the global movement to end hunger. The views expressed in this commentary belong to the author. View more opinion at CNN.

CNN  — 

This year’s Super Bowl will be full of firsts: the first without a packed stadium; the first requiring players and coaches to follow Covid-19 protocol; and the first broadcast in a long time to go without ads from some of its big, perennial advertisers.

Barron Segar

That is surprising considering the Super Bowl, which typically draws around 100 million viewers, has been frequently rated the most-watched broadcast of the year, commanding multimillion-dollar ad spends from major corporations. This year, however, giants like Pepsi and Coca-Cola have decided not to run advertisements for some of their products, citing, among other factors, the pandemic and its effect on consumers. Theirs is a reasonable and cautious business decision.

What’s even more extraordinary is Anheuser-Busch’s decision to scrap its Budweiser Super Bowl ad in favor of supporting the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative’s vaccine awareness initiative and donating money to go toward the organizations’ future ad campaigns.

Budweiser has also released a 90-second digital ad encouraging people to embrace vaccination. A company spokesperson said Anheuser-Busch’s total donation to vaccine education and awareness would amount to “a multimillion-dollar commitment.”

This move by Budweiser is big, and it gives humanitarian organizations like mine hope and optimism.

It is also shrewd. Anheuser-Busch already has an active foundation dedicated to social programs. But the company decided to buy another round during the global pandemic. They must have calculated that investing in public service would be good for the brand, and in turn, good for the business. Regardless of their motivations, they are doing the right thing. No doubt they will be rewarded for their courage and commitment.

So, here’s my question: Who will join them? In these unprecedented times with unprecedented threats and vast disparities between those who are thriving and those who are barely surviving, who among the wealthiest corporations will join Budweiser? Which will put a fraction of their profits to push back against urgent and catastrophic events — and potentially save lives?

At the United Nations World Food Programme, humanitarian leaders grapple with how to fill budget gaps as they urgently work to feed and support people around the world who are living on less than $2 a day.

The pandemic has exacerbated the problem for many of these people, who have no safety net and nowhere else to turn. We estimate that the number of severely hungry people has reached more than a quarter of a billion – an 82% increase compared to pre-Covid figures – and their needs are far outpacing our budget.

Right now, the UN World Food Programme is roughly $5 billion short of the $15 billion it will take to sustain its life-saving operations this year and prevent famine, which threatens Yemen, northeast Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and South Sudan. Budget shortfalls in our line of work means ration cuts, starvation and death.

I’ll be honest. It is hard for me to have a rosy outlook on companies reporting tens of billions of profits in 2020. Organizations like mine are desperate to fill enormous funding gaps to save lives in places where food is scarce. We particularly need immediate resources to reach 13 million people in Yemen, where the ongoing civil war has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

I know corporate success helps our economy, rewards innovators and brings job security to middle class workers. But I also know that with investment we can solve hunger. If ordinary American donors can contribute enough to feed a family of five for a month, corporations and those who’ve done well during the pandemic could do exponentially more.

Budweiser has made it clear that, at least this year, their shareholders can live without another Super Bowl ad if it contributes to the greater good. By applying their ad money to public service, Budweiser is not only anticipating a better future – it is helping make it a reality.

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    To be sure, many American businesses have struggled in 2020 and recovery is uncertain. But I believe companies and individuals who have thrived during the pandemic have a moral and ethical responsibility to give back to those less fortunate.

    For those who answer the call, your next Bud’s on me.