Those who tuned in during the Super Bowl this year likely noticed a different kind of commercial from WeatherTech; instead of promoting their products, the Chicago-based vehicle accessories company spent nearly $6 million on an advertisement to help raise money for the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.
While this might seem like a strange altruistic act for a for-profit company, the story of Scout, the golden retriever featured in last year’s WeatherTech Super Bowl ad, is very personal for the WeatherTech CEO, Dave MacNeil. Scout is MacNeil’s family dog, so when he was diagnosed with a rare cancer (a tumor in his heart) and only given one month to live, the MacNeil family felt compelled to fight for Scout’s life. MacNeil could not bring himself to put Scout down, and instead chose to bring him to the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine for a second opinion.
“David and Scout’s mom, Fabriana, brought Scout to our hospital the next day and within days we began treatment for his cancer,” Mark Markel, Dean of the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, told PetPlace. “The UW School of Veterinary Medicine has a decades-long reputation as an international leader in cancer treatment and cancer research benefiting both animal and human health. We have animals that come from all over the country, and occasionally the world, for treatment in our hospital.”
Although Scout had only been given a one percent chance of survival, the team at UW’s School of Veterinary Medicine treated him with aggressive chemotherapy and radiation that drastically shrunk his tumor. As a result, Scout is alive and well, and, as we saw on the Super Bowl commercial, enjoying long runs on the beach again.
As a way to thank the incredible doctors and staff who helped save Scout’s life, MacNeil decided to buy ad space during Super Bowl LIV to share Scout’s incredible story of recovery and survival. The call to action at the end of the commercial encourages people to donate to the school that helped get Scout into remission.
“At first, I thought this can’t be real,” said Markel. “It doesn’t take long, however, to know that Mr. MacNeil is both passionate about his dog, Scout, and also that when he puts his mind to something, it will happen. Everyone here at the SVM, the UW-Madison campus, and our alumni are incredibly thankful for Mr. MacNeil’s generosity. The commercial has literally put the school in the world’s eye.”
The ad has had a huge impact on the charitable contributions received by the school. 3 days after the commercial aired, Markel told us that the school is still processing the total gifts and do not have a final monetary number, but they consider the #PetsMakeADifference campaign to have been a big success.
“I can say that we received more than 5,000 individual gifts from every state in the U.S., and from across the world,” said Markel. “The donations given to this effort will allow us to purchase state-of-the-art equipment that will enable us to better diagnose and treat animals with cancer. It will also support our Clinical Trials Cancer Center designed to develop new and better treatments for animals with cancer.”
Markel explained to us that one of the greatest benefits of that Super Bowl commercial was that it highlighted the importance of the research done at the University of Wisconsin, for both animals and humans.
“We were integral to Tomotherapy being approved as a radiation treatment for humans, which is now one of the most commonly used radiation treatments in humans,” said Markel. “We were the first veterinary medical school to have a Tomotherapy unit, one that was used to successfully treat Scout’s heart-based tumor. Decades ago, we were one of the first to use immunotherapy to treat cancers in dogs, which now has become a popular treatment of cancer in humans.”
The bottom line is that choosing to donate to cancer research can have an impact beyond just humans, and WeatherTech’s #PetsMakeADifference campaign has helped to bring that important message to the masses.