Nothing looks like it did a year ago, including the advertising spectacle that is the Super Bowl.
As the big game approaches, the surprising news about this year’s slate of advertising is not who is running commercials, it’s who isn’t. Budweiser, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Little Caesars and Avocados from Mexico – names we always expect to have some sort of ad presence – have announced they won’t be running in-game ads during this year’s game. Instead, they’re choosing to invest in other ways.
Pepsi, for instance, is devoting all their ad dollars to the halftime show, while Coca-Cola has simply bowed out altogether. Anheuser-Busch, Budweiser’s parent company, will still have four minutes of ads devoted to its other brands. But it’s the first time in 37 years viewers won’t see an ad for Budweiser during the game. Instead, Anheuser-Busch plans to donate a percentage of its 2021 advertising airtime to the Ad Council and the COVID Collaborative’s vaccine education initiative.
While it seems like an unexpected move for these brands given just how many viewers tune in to watch the Super Bowl (nearly 100 million in 2020), it’s indicative of how priorities have shifted during the pandemic for everyday Americans and big companies alike. The change in this year’s advertising also means that while some of the brands you’re used to seeing will sit this year out, quite a few will make their first appearance on the Super Bowl ad stage, with players like Chipotle, DoorDash, Huggies, Fiverr, Mercari and Vroom, just to name a few. And commercial spots are still filling up, so we may see a few more unexpected additions to the list.
Brands are jumping on this new ad availability, and for companies like DoorDash and Mercari, it means they’re staying agile by taking advantage of the changing landscape. As phrases like working from home, contactless delivery and shopping local have become part of our vocabularies, these are brands whose moments have come amidst a huge surge in business.
Another change we expect this year is fewer humorous commercials, with many advertisers opting instead for ones that strike a more serious tone. We anticipate there being more emotion-driven spots with tributes to front-line workers and first responders, as well as messaging promoting unity.
Even without appearances from Budweiser’s Clydesdales or Coca-Cola’s polar bears, fans can still count on both the game and its commercials for a few hours of unadulterated competition, humor and emotion. And in a pandemic that’s upended traditions of all kinds, the entertainment and larger-than-life advertising of the Super Bowl offer up an escape that viewers desperately crave right now.