NBCUniversal activates its platform to give back for the holidays

The network teamed up with Progressive, Verizon and Walmart on original holiday programming and donations to Feeding America and No Kid Hungry.

Knowing that this holiday season will be difficult for many, NBCUniversal decided to leverage its entire programming might for good.

The network on Monday launched a holiday campaign and surrounding programming supported by Verizon, Progressive and Walmart, which will donate a combined $600,000 to Feeding America and No Kid Hungry.

The campaign, called Family is Universal, will include special programming and events around the holiday season, such as a Top Chef marathon on Thanksgiving morning and holiday specials from NBCU talent, as well as live airings of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thanksgiving Day Thursday Night Football and the Rockefeller Center tree lighting in New York City.

“We’re united in our commitment to caring for our customers, our communities and our colleagues,” Progressive CMO Jeff Charney said in a statement. “While we know the holidays will likely be different than past years, its significance takes on even greater meaning as we look for new and creative ways to connect and celebrate with loved ones.”

The campaign will be executed through NBCU’s Symphony platform, which brings together all of the business and programming units at parent company Comcast to promote a specific initiative.

This is the first time the network has used Symphony for a charity initiative, or in other words, NBCU’s first “symphony for good,” said Mark Marshall, president of advertising sales and partnerships at NBCUniversal.

“COVID-19 has changed the way not only we, but also marketers, think,” he said. “This was a chance to look at things in a different way.”

NBCU launched the campaign based on an insight that brands were leaning into giving back and purposeful messaging during the pandemic. The network had success with other live charity-driven events this year, such as a Jimmy Fallon at home special to raise money for the Red Cross and a Parks and Recreation reunion special to fundraise for Feeding America.

“We saw the sentiment grow that people wanted to hear what brands were doing to help in this time,” Marshall said.

As sponsors, Verizon, Walmart and Progressive will air special programming and branded content on NBCU that demonstrates how they are giving back during COVID-19. Walmart, for example, will host a segment on Today honoring a family and an organization giving back to their community, as well as branded content that follows last year’s winner of The Voice volunteering with Walmart Associates.

“We want this to live in all of these different places to tell the story of how we're coming together with Feeding America and No Kid Hungry,” Marshall said. “We are talking to 232 million people every single month, and we have a role to play in society.”

The campaign also leans into what Marshall sees as a fundamental shift in marketing towards brands telling stories about what they're doing for good. “Marketing will become something greater than a two-for-one sale,” he said.

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