Intuit Small Business Super Bowl Ad Contest May Take One Toke Over the Line

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As Super Bowl advertisers open themselves up more to the idea of crowdsourcing their creatives, they may want to take pause at a potential dilemma being faced by Intuit as the office-software giant plots its sponsorship of its first ad during the Big Game.

Intuit’s gambit was to launch an online contest, Small Business Big Game, whose winner would get a free ad, paid for by the brand, during the Super Bowl. But what if the winner turns out to be an organization promoting the legalization of marijuana?

NORML, long the nation’s leading advocate of the   normalization of pot smoking, launched a campaign on the Intuit site to win the spot for a message about marijuana legalization. “We can make [it] a topic of conversation at every game-watching party across the country!” NORML said on its website. And indeed, NORML claimed, it vaulted to No. 1 in the important online-voting component of the contest.[more]

Interestingly, Intuit didn’t take the bait in a way that many might have expected. The company had revoked its services from an Oregon medical clinic in 2011, The Huffington Post noted, stating that the clinic’s involvement with medical marijuana was an “unacceptable business practice.”

But an Intuit statement to HuffPost said that the company has “no stance on medical marijuana” and added that, “By design, we’ve had a diverse range of businesses entering Small Business Big Game and sharing their unique stories with the world.”

However, lest anyone jump to conclusions, remember the several obstacles in the way between NORML’s enthusiasm and a Super Bowl ad that just might give some viewers a more favorable attitude toward the many Doritos commercials expected during the contest.

First, Intuit’s statement was hardly a reverberating endorsement of NORML’s goal. Second, it wasn’t clear if the Intuit contest would regard NORML—or even a marijuana clinic it might support—as a qualifying “small business.”

And, third, as HuffPost noted, there are other voting rounds that decide the contest winner after the online vote, including a filtering by the Intuit staff.

If it makes it through, the NORML ad would be the first marijuana-related ad shown during the Super Bowl—but not the first for major sporting events. In July, a pro-marijuana ad aired during a NASCAR race, dubbed “New Beer.” That probably won’t go over well with the handful of brewers paying about $4 million for 30 seconds of airtime during the big game. 

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