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In Record Time, Visa Rallies NFL Stars, Morgan Freeman for Ad to Support Harvey Victims

The San Francisco 49ers’ NaVorro Bowman, one of several NFL stars who contributed to Visa's on-the-spot effort to rally support for victims of Hurricane Harvey. | Image credit: YouTube

Brands are increasingly leveraging their influence for good, using their tremendous reach and means to draw attention to and inspire action to address some of the biggest environmental and social challenges of our time. ‘Goodvertising’ plays an important role in this space — as evidenced by this year’s Cannes Lions — but getting it right doesn’t always come easy. Spotlighting the world’s most burning issues is important, but simply telling stories isn’t enough — businesses need to demonstrate what they’re actually doing to create a better world.

Visa has risen to the challenge, creating a spot for the kickoff game of the NFL season that aims to rally viewer support for Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts. While the move provides an excellent example of how businesses can use their unique position to do good, it further demonstrates how cross-industry collaboration and consumer engagement are critical for driving meaningful and sustainable change. What’s more, the spot sends a powerful message about how we’re all on the same team, the very sentiment that ultimately allowed the ad to come together at record speed. 

In addition to reaching out to the American Red Cross and the NFL, Visa enlisted the help of players including Eli Manning of the New York Giants, Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots and Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers, as well as public figures such as Morgan Freeman to share a message of unity and encourage viewers to take action by donating to the Red Cross. In the ad — which was largely filmed using iPhones and local production equipment at stadiums across the US — athletes state their team and city, followed by “But right now, we’re all supporting the recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast.”

While production costs and approvals often complicate the commercial process — particularly when high profile organizations and personalities are involved — the experience demonstrates how collaboration can help create an impactful ad with limited time and resources.

“It’s suggestive of a different way of doing media in the future. It’s not hyper-polished production quality, it speaks to the authenticity of the spot,” said Chris Curtin, Chief Brand and Innovation Marketing Officer at Visa.

The NFL extended Visa’s ship date deadline for the ad and BBDO, a New York City based creative agency, created a script and guidelines for athletes to help streamline the production and editing process. The Red Cross also established a special donation domain and sports management shop WME | IMG connected Visa with the participating athletes and provided public relations support.

“It was an opportunity to do something so small but have a great impact,” Olsen told WSJ. “IT made too much sense not to be a part of it.”


Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]