For those of us at Square One who were among the record-breaking viewership of Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots, the game-saving, goal-line interception by the Patriots in the final minute was exciting, to say the least. But for those of us in Family Services at Square One, the game’s most exciting moments happened off the field, on television. They were commercials.
Anticipating record-breaking viewership, advertisers paid more than $4 million dollars each for a 30-second commercial to promote their brands. So why did this excite us in Family Services? This year, some seemed to be less about consumers buying products and more about getting them to buy into the benefits of being a really good dad. It was great to see Madison Avenue validating our work. Advertisers including Dove, Nissan and Toyota promoted an “all about dad” theme. Unless they stepped out of the room for more nachos, over 100 million viewers were exposed to ads showcasing dads as loving, supportive and present figures in their children’s lives.
Every day, Square One actively promotes a similar message—and on a budget of much less than $4 million! “Anyone can be a father,” says Joni Beck Brewer, Vice President of Square One’s Family Services, “but it really takes a man to be a dad. A good dad makes all the difference in a child’s life. And through our Healthy Families home visiting program, we offer support for new dads who want to learn more about parenting and child development, work towards completing their education or achieving their job goals, and connect with needed community supports. Through Square One’s Family Services, men even have the opportunity to come to groups just for dads, where they can support each other and get new ideas about how to be a great dad.”
Research has proven, again and again, that involved dads are critical to healthy child development. A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation validates that children of more engaged dads do better in school and are more likely to delay childbirth and avoid risky behavior. In contrast, boys who grow up without involved dads are more likely to be poor, underperform in school (or drop out), abuse drugs and spend time in prison. Many of the young men Square One sees never had a loving dad themselves, never had a male role model whose behavior they could observe and learn from. That’s not just sad. It’s tragic.
Of course not every new dad had the benefit of an active, present dad in his own upbringing. Square One has ways to help these men become the loving, caring dads they never had. “Our parenting programs are designed to say, You don’t have to parent as you were parented,” says Beck Brewer. “They’re designed so men can learn what they may not have learned without a dad in their own family. Square One helps them learn how to give their own kids the benefits only a loving dad can provide.”
Yes, I’m glad the Patriot’s won. (OK, really glad!) It was an incredible, come-from-behind victory. But I think there were more winners than just the players and fans. I have to tip my hat to the corporate marketing folks who took the risk to produce spots that weren’t intended to generate a laugh, but which instead were intended to inspire a few moments of reflection about the role a dad can play is in his child’s life.
We all know that a 30-second ad isn’t enough to change consumer behavior, not by itself. But it doesn’t have to be by itself. If enough of us keep the conversation going, if enough funding continues to be available to support programs for dads, and if we can reach enough men who want to be good dads, who knows? Maybe we’ll be able to celebrate an even more exciting victory. Maybe next time we’ll celebrate a different kind of triumph. Maybe we’ll celebrate the everyday triumphs that happen when every child has a dad in their lives.
Consider, if you will, just how important a caring and present dad can be.