3 Evangelization Lessons from Super Bowl Commercials

Reflecting on Sunday’s big game (go Packers!) and the attendant commercials, I realized that there are some lessons for the Church and how we promote our message in the public square:

Don’t be afraid to tag along. Using Twitter during a major even like the Super Bowl is always fun — but Amazon also used it to drum up some extra business. Whenever a song was used in a Super Bowl commercial, the AmazonMP3 twitter feed sent out a link to the song in their store:

This is a great example of adding extra value to an experience. “Did you enjoy listening to ‘Tiny Dancer’ in that Budweiser commercial? Here’s where you can buy it.”

Now imagine doing the same thing, but pointing out connections to the faith. For instance, many movies and television plots contain connections to (if not outright borrowing elements from) Sacred Scripture. Pointing that out on Twitter (or Facebook, or your parish bulletin, or your blog…) and then directing people to where they can get more information can help build on an experience they already have to direct them to further their journey of faith. For instance, imagine pointing out the biblical allusions in a show like Battlestar Galactica or discussion of faith issues that crop up in dramas like Bones and Law & Order. Then point people to the relevant book of the Bible or section of the Catechism!

(Just be careful not to turn your message into a Jesus Juke.)

Don’t be crass. Using humor is great, but don’t use someone’s pain for your gain:

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This may have been the most controversial of last night’s commercials — it certainly sent Twitter abuzz! The insensitive use of the suffering of the Tibetan people didn’t do anything for GroupOn’s reputation.

For Catholics, this means not exploiting others suffering to convince them to join the Church. While it is true that there is healing and forgiveness to be found in the Church, we shouldn’t manipulate people’s shortcomings or pain. And it means we shouldn’t disparage their families, friends, and loved ones who may not agree with their decision to join the Church. There are plenty of problems in the Catholic Church; we don’t need to go needlessly picking on others.

Leave them wanting more — and invite them to get it. OK, I dislike Go Daddy’s overly sexualized ads (and I won’t be linking to them here), but their strategy of “go to our website for the rest” is marketing genius. It gets people to take a specific action and go where the company wants them to go.

Really — it’s brilliant.

The Church has something even better: the Eucharist. But how often do we invite people to join us for Mass? We may talk about how awesome the liturgy is, how incredible it is that God gives us his Son as food. But do we ask others to experience it with us?

I’m not advocating for open Communion, just pointing out that it’s one thing to tell people about the faith — it’s another to invite them to experience that “more” we have to offer. We need to offer the “rest of the story” that can only be found in the Mass.

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Author:Jonathan F. Sullivan

Jonathan F. Sullivan is the director of catechetical services for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. You can follow him on Twitter @sullijo; he also blogs on catechetical topics at www.JonathanFSullivan.com.
  • http://marccardaronella.com Marc Cardaronella

    Great ideas Jonathan! I really like suggesting spiritual connections in movies or TV shows on a parish blog. Very interesting idea about inviting people to join us through the Eucharist. Could be good for targeting fallen away Catholics too perhaps.

    Thanks for the post.

  • Anonymous

    Jonathan…you’re spot-on about the ‘invitation’ aspect. People respond to the invitation…either accepting it or rejecting it…but the Church needs to begin with the invitation.

    I think this is an area of Church communications that could really use some high-powered marketing campaigns…ala ‘Catholics Come Home’.

    It reminds me of my parish Priest who suggest every Advent that we personally invite at least one person to Mass. While dropping big bucks into advertising can be a fruitful thing if done well…it’s a lot cheaper to just look someone in the eye and ask, “Would you like to join us at Mass this Sunday?”