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What Advertisers Need to Do for a More Sustainable Super Bowl 2025


You've already likely read several articles recapping and the ads, and even the sustainability issues around the Super Bowl, but, before you tune out, this is about the specifics that we need to get into to make sure next year isn't a repeat with a lack of sustainability consideration in the advertising.

Super Bowl LVIII was one for the record books. At 123.4 million average viewers tuning in, it was only second to the 1969 moon landing as the most-watched American television broadcast.

The game had us on the edge of our seats, our eyes glued to the action, a particularly good thing for the brave marketers who set out to capture our attention, our purchase intent, and of course, a coveted spot-on Monday morning's "top 5 advertising lists." Those marketers gave us 45 minutes of unforgettable, celebrity-packed ads. A few stood out in their ability to push beyond pure entertainment. The ones that used their big moment of influence to remind us that our actions matter. Our planet matters. The next generation of Super Bowl fans matter.

There are a lot of numbers we pay attention to related to the Super Bowl:

  • The odds of each team winning, the stats of the game
  • The points needed to win the office football pool
  • The high cost of tickets
  • The cost of a thirty second ad slot (this year, it was $7 million, an increase of 55 percent in the past five years)

But what we likely don't think about as much are the numbers associated with the environment. The carbon footprint of the Super Bowl event is mind-boggling, from stadium energy usage and waste generated at the game to travel to the game. (Though, it was very encouraging to see this be the first Super Bowl and first NFL Stadium to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, among other sustainability considerations this year.)

There's also waste in every home that bought too much food, ordered balloons, and used disposable tableware, and energy-usage from screens and lighting. These are the more obvious factors, but did you know that there is still something even more substantial when it comes to the Super Bowl's pollution-generating carbon emissions? It's the advertising.

In 2021, Super Bowl advertising produced around two million tonnes of carbon emissions from just the delivery of the ads, all roughly equivalent to the yearly carbon footprint of 143,000 people in the US or 400,000 people globally. This doesn't include the production of the ads – and we know that the average TV ad is roughly that of a global citizen's carbon footprint for an entire year (data from AdGreen), and Super Bowl ads typically contain more carbon-heavy components such as celebrities with private jets. And we haven't even accounted for the bigger elephant in the room — the increase in consumption driven by the ads' messages.

Advertising is a major carbon producer, digital and physical realms, especially in the U.S. as the market with 40 percent of the world's ad spend and a carbon footprint per capita approximately three times the global average. From the months of concepting meetings and revisions, flights, set builds, edits in the production of the videos, and then the data servers and programmatic ad exchanges (actually the biggest emitter in the whole advertising supply chain), and the impressions viewed and related energy usage.

Taking Steps for a Low-Emissions Future

With the largest annual captive audience, Super Bowl advertisers have two opportunities to do better. First, they can implement best practices in production, media, and business travel to reduce waste and pollution caused by next year's advertising. Second, they can use their influence to change consumer behavior for good.

Looking at the Super Bowl ads from this year, Disney+ had the creative approach of using only text. The concept not only stood out for being different, it also uses significantly less carbon. Advertisers planning for Superbowl LIX have many ways to reduce the carbon of their creative. To do it well, it's important to start measuring their carbon footprint using a calculator like AdGreen, and additional reduction resources for the full production community at Green The Bid. Once advertisers see where their advertising process creates the most emissions, they can be more effective at reducing. It's well-documented that travel is the biggest emitter so think about locations that require less flying for example.

What can be even more impactful is the message itself. This year, millions of people saw ads for new electric vehicles BMW, KIA, and Volkswagen, a growth opportunity for auto manufacturers, but still not as profitable as their gas-powered vehicles. These ads sent a message about the future and can help shift consumer behavior for the better. Similarly, Hellmann's used their spot to inspire people to use leftovers in new ways, rather than throw them out. Reducing food waste and being mindful about consumption is another powerful message, and it lowers the dangerous and fast-acting methane emissions. And Salomon's nature-centered ad inspired us to get outside, and was the only planet-forward ad. In the future, every ad can have a similarly powerful message, whether overt or subliminal. Every company can commit to reducing their own waste and encouraging consumers to do the same.

As an industry, we must do better. We must make sustainability part of the conversation – we're looking at your brands, strategists, creatives, and production partners.

The conversations start now for next year. This begins at the inception of the brief, in discussions with the creative agency about the opportunity to feature sustainable behavior (70 percent of GHG emissions are linked to household consumption). And it flows through to the production decisions, starting with getting a measurement tool in place (such as AdGreen) and using best practices to lower emissions (available from AdGreen, Green The Bid, and other sources).

I love a great game as much as anyone, and tune into the Super Bowl like everyone else. However, for Super Bowl LIX next year, let's create and produce ads that people will be talking about for years and generations to come, a launching point for a more sustainable future.

Rachel Schnorr is USA membership director at Ad Net Zero.

The views and opinions expressed in Industry Insights are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.