There are few advertising campaigns that stop people in their tracks, and few if any of those are by insurance companies using social media.

That's why this use of social media and cause marketing is so impressive. Both because it was staggeringly effective from an engagement and brand perspective, and because it took place within a highly regulated industry.

What’s the last ad campaign that stopped you in your tracks?

There aren’t too many around that can do that, are there? Billions of dollars spent on advertising each year and we can count on just one hand the number of ad campaigns that get above the static. Than makes a brand scoring big worth notice.

I’ve been in Portland a lot lately, where Wieden and Kennedy’s “Just Do It” campaign for Nike is legend. (Here’s a nice case study on that.)You can also find a copy of David Ogilvy’s best work on my desk, when it isn’t being borrowed. This is marketing at its best. What makes up your cannon of great work?

Guess what, I’ve found another that’s scoring big.

Some of the absolute best social media work anywhere is being done by a century-old firm you probably already know. The Hartford’s Achieve Without Limits, is taking cause marketing to “at-scale success”.

It is gaining real social media credibility and capability, and they’re building a sizable engaged tribe of followers. And what makes it work, is this is authentic and aligned with their corporate zeitgeist, or as marketers would say, their brand architecture. This alignment is the table steaks for  moving from good to great.

The Hartford launched a multi-year campaign, Achieve Without Limits to celebrates the firm’s long association with U.S. Paralympics, and the example its athletes set for dedication and achievement.

How would you build a platform based on dedication and achievement? They recruited the talent of Janusz Kaminski, the Academy Award Winner who filmed “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindlers List” to create breathtaking vignettes that introduce the Paralympic athletes.

Then, they dedicated their ad slots in the NCAA’s March Madness finals to debut the ads – which carried calls to meet and support the athletes through a robust Facebook Fan page and specialized Twitter account.

Hearing Melissa Stockwell say “no, I would not give back my disability if I could” simply is a remarkable moment. It earns comments and engagement. Great advertising campaigns share four attributes: they are  tangible, approachable, personal, and memorable. This platform gets around those bases well.

The Hartford also pledged to donate $1 to U.S. Paralympics for every “Like” or “Share” that the Facebook page receives.  And, the company backed this promise up with innovative paid advertising on Facebook.

But most importantly, it delivered prospective fans to social media experiences worth liking. There are parts of this campaign that are transfixing – as in, pausing it to show the rest of the family.

The edge of Sam Kavanaugh’s Excuse Converter has perceptible snark that recalls Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like“. Team members share indepth profiles and some of what they’ve  learned through their Paralympic journeys.

And The Hartford promotes meeting them on the road to the London 2012 games.  If good marketing is a story, there’s a rich and long enough story arc to hang a novel or series off this platform.

What has the Hartford learned? The created a lessons learned document which they shared as Social Media 101 for the entire Paralympic movement. While competitors were inactive, preachy, commercial, or just chatter, The Hartford did something good to advance a social cause they’re part of. And along the way, they built a social media audience of 105,000 members who are willing to join them in their support of these athletes.

The Hartford treated their social media and cause marketing as long term assets. They avoided being caught up in the tactical questions of lead generation and attribution, and instead did what marketing does at its very best. They used the brand and its values to create a campaign that aggregated and moved an audience.

With another year to go on this story arc, I’m looking forward to cheering on our Paralympic team for the first time, and enjoying the art and spirit The Hartford marshals to take this work across the finish line.  Greatness is within reach.

It’s a pleasure to hold up a relatively unsung campaign as an example of what brand marketers do at their best in cross channel campaigns. Congratulations to everyone at The Hartford, and to Team USA.

Now that you’re in the race, what will you show us next?

Dave Wieneke

Published 23 September, 2011 by Dave Wieneke

Dave Wieneke leads Digital Strategy at Connective DX, and is a graduate lecturer on Digital Marketing at Rutgers Business School. He writes on the future of digital marketing at and he can be reached through Twitter and LinkedIn


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Comments (1)



I love it when companies like the Hartford create and easy way to raise funds for a great cause.

almost 7 years ago

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