Visa calls an audible, drops NFL Kickoff ad to promote Harvey relief
- Visa has decided not to run an NFL Kickoff ad promoting its mobile payment feature and will instead focus on providing relief for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, a storm which devastated the Houston area of Texas and other portions of the Gulf Coast less than two weeks ago. For the new effort, called "We're All On the Same Team," Visa asked NFL players from a variety of teams to send in footage from their smartphones and local production facilities asking fans for support in the recovery efforts still underway, reported The Wall Street Journal.
- Visa's last second switch had some logistical hurdles to overcome — the decision came from the company on Aug. 28 for an ad that will run tonight, Sept. 7 — as the typical ad creation process comes with hefty production costs and lengthy approvals from entities like unions, leagues, teams and celebrities appearing in the ads, noted the Journal. The mobile payments spot took over a month to produce and will now air at a later date.
- To get the Harvey recovery spot ready to air on such short notice, the NFL agreed to an extension on the ship date deadline for the spot, per the Journal. The agency BBDO wrote up a script and guidelines for the athletes to work from when filming their content to send back to Visa. Sports management agency WME|IMG provided PR support and put Visa into contact with the players, BBDO edited the footage that was received and, finally, the Red Cross helped set up a branded donation domain on its site.
Visa dropping a pre-produced ad to instead promote Harvey relief for NFL season kickoff displays smart, thoughtful, on-the-fly decision making from the brand. Thursday night's game will be a massive draw for TV audiences eager to watch pro football again, so Visa is ensuring its message has a national reach that could seriously bolster aid to recovery efforts. In displaying a bit of altruism and focusing on an immediate crisis over promoting its own product, Visa will net a positive lift in brand perception as well — something that will help further down the line when the mobile payment ad eventually airs.
While plenty of brands are working to help out with Harvey recovery, Visa's play contrasts with other kickoff campaigns from NFL sponsors. Bud Light and Bridgestone, for example, are running much more straightforward TV ads around the event, per press releases put out by the companies. Bud Light's spot, titled "Vendor," is part of its broader "Famous Among Friends" brand platform and leans on humor, showing how a man quickly regrets his wish to always have access to a loud stadium beer vendor hawking his beverages. Bridgestone's "Pep Talk" also focuses on the funny, and stars iconic Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden.
The differences in approach here point to a tricky balance brands must walk when it comes to tackling real-world issues. NFL airtime is highly coveted by advertisers and cutting a TV spot that likely had a high cost and rigorous production process isn't an easy move to make for any company, but it's also one that immediately benefits those affected by disaster and might provide long-term benefits for the brand.