Stella Artois Dabbles in Murky Water – Marketing Masterstroke or Mistake?

Last week we were treated to a glorious stream of Super Bowl ads, some better the than others, but nonetheless all costing over $5 million each, just to be featured!

Among the contestants for hundreds of millions of eyeballs was this piece from Stella Artois & Water.org


Among the plethora of celebrities endorsing products during the Super Bowl, this 30 second commercial stars Hollywood favourite and Water.org co-founder Matt Damon, who urges us to purchase a Stella Artois Chalice to help provide five years of clean water for one person in the developing world. With over 663 million people affected by the global water crisis, it seems like a thoughtful idea, right? Well, not everyone was buying it …

John Zavinski took to Twitter questioning, “Why does my city water cost 30 bucks a month when the price of a beer mug will buy 5 y(ea)rs worth?”

And when scratching around on the Stella Artois website, you’ll discover that of the $13 paid for each chalice, only $3.13 goes to Damon’s charity. So how does $3.13 provide 5 years’ worth of water?

We’re not sure either.

From the outset, this scheme appears to be an altruistic exercise taken by Stella Artois to address a significant issue facing portions of the developing world. But when you consider the numbers, it just doesn’t add up.

Consumers are generally willing to participate in campaigns initiated by corporate giants if they believe their purchase will have an impact. But when companies like Stella Artois appear to be the party profiting the most from these initiatives, it’s interpreted by the public as a multi-billion-dollar company passing the buck onto consumers. So much for corporate social responsibility.

Even though the numbers don’t look great, the alternative of not drawing attention to, and not donating money to Water.org is certainly the worst of the two options. Especially when considering that over the four years of this campaign, Stella Artois has reportedly helped more than one million people around the world gain access to clean water.

While this is an extraordinary achievement that surely provides Stella Artois’ stakeholders with abundant amounts of warmth and fuzziness, many have been left wondering, wouldn’t it have been easier and more efficient if, instead of spending $5 million on the Super Bowl spot, they just donated the money to Water.org?

A donation of this size could have had an incredible and immediate impact, but Stella Artois would have run an ad in the Super Bowl anyway, and so by sharing the stage with the charity, they both benefit in terms of donations, publicity, access to a powerful celebrity and hundreds of thousands of branded glasses in American households.

Buying our way out of the global water crisis is certainly not a solution, and the beverage giant could afford to donate millions more, but ultimately Stella Artois doesn’t have to donate a cent to anyone.

So for these reasons, this week, it’s a Marketing Masterstroke.

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Written By: Rob