Crafting Purpose-focused Food & Lifestyle Brands

7 Ways Microsoft Taps Purpose for Super Bowl Ad’s Stories



UPDATE, February 4, 2014: The following post was written and published in the hour before the Super Bowl 2014 began. It was our hunch that Microsoft’s approach with “Empowering” was going to be highly regarded. While we don’t know the bottom line benefit to Microsoft, Ace Metrix’s analysis is that the ad was “the most effective Super Bowl ad of this year.” For more insight, please read a report of the Ace Metrix analysis.


Microsoft’s Super Bowl XLVIII commercial, “Empowering,” taps into seven strong story narratives to underscore that its purpose is beyond the technology it makes and sells.

The lesson for Content Marketers — and anyone else trying to tap into their own sources for authentic, emotion-generating stories  — is that your business’ purpose beyond profit provides a wellspring of stories that have meaning to customers and stakeholders, alike.

Here are a few notable examples from the Microsoft Super Bowl XLVIII ad:

1. Giving Legs To a Legless Child

In the first vignette, a little boy is shown playing Little League on prosthetic legs

2. Enabling a Sight Impaired Senior Citizen to See

An elderly man who is loosing his sight, but enjoys painting, is empowered to paint again

3. Bridging Cultures by Connecting International Classrooms Virtually

Children from different cultures are seen greeting each other via video conferencing

4. A Deployed Soldier is Able to Witness the Birth of his Child

A soldier sees his newborn child via a webcast from a distant base somewhere in the world

5. Landing on the Surface of Mars

Mission Control room jubilation accompanies shots from a rover just landed on Mars

6. A Young Deaf Woman is Given the Ability to Hear for the First Time

A young adult woman reacts emotionally to hearing sounds for the first time

7. Giving A Paralyzed Man a Voice to Speak to his Child

Former NFL pro Steve Gleason, who suffers from ALS, is shown to be “narrating” the commercial through a voice-enhanced computer

The authentic connection between what Microsoft produces and sells (technology products and solutions) and the role these have in helping people’s lives plays out well in this ad, without being cloying.

Scoring a Touchdown by Extending the Stories

Most of the above vignettes are featured as individual stories on Microsoft’s YouTube channel, effectively extending the storytelling into the social space (view all the stories on their Empowering playlist):

Surgeons: Operate With Kinect
Hal Lasko: Painting with Technology
Mystery Skype: Connecting Classrooms Around the World
Steve Gleason: No White Flags
Braylon O’Neill: Making Strides
Sarah Churman: Hearing for the First Time


Creating a Culture of Purpose

Microsoft’s approach to storytelling in their Super Bowl ad exemplifies what Punit Renjen, Chairman of the Board of Deloitte says in Culture of Purpose: A Business Imperative, about the role of purpose in business today:

“Take a look at companies whose success is perennial. They sustain themselves by generating significant, positive impact for everyone their operations touch. They are keenly aware of the purpose they fulfill for clients, employees, community, and other groups — and they integrate goals to serve those groups into their business’ core activities.

Therefore, establishing a culture of purpose is important to a company’s entire stakeholder universe.

For successful organizations, creating meaningful impact beyond financial performance is becoming the new normal…a business imperative.”

Creating Content That Serves a Purpose

Learn more about creating purpose-driven content through the “How to Improve Lives & Improve the Bottom Line through Content Marketing” infographic.

And by the way: Go Hawks!