Feb 6, 2021 - Economy

Super Bowl advertising is going to look a lot different this year

Image of a boy and a man fishing in a Super Bowl ad

Screen shot from Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's Super Bowl ad via YouTube

The big game, happening for the first time in history without many fans in the stadium, will feature spots with socially-distanced characters, and people staying home.

Why it matters: While some ads will try to be light, the gravity of the pandemic will still be felt.

  • Mercari, an e-commerce platform, will run its first-ever Super Bowl ad featuring a couple sitting at home selling unused home goods on their phones.
  • Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's will run a spot showing ways the outdoors can be a relief during the pandemic.
  • Bud Light will show a spot for "Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade" that pokes fun at how chaotic 2020 was. "2020 was a lemon of a year," a character says.

A slew of first-time advertisers that have seen pandemic-related business gains will flood this years‘ airwaves.

  • Robinhood, despite a rocky few weeks, will run an ad about democratizing trading.
  • Chipotle will run an ad about ways burritos can change the world by bringing environmentally-friendly jobs to farmers.
  • Vroom, an online car buying app, has an ad mentioning contact-free car delivery.

On the flip side, several automobile brands will be missing this year, as the pandemic has taken a particularly tough toll on their business.

Yes, but: For some classic advertisers, the sensitivity around advertising during a pandemic may draw too much attention, so they’re sitting it out.

  • Budweiser, the sister brand of Bud Light, is giving up its iconic in-game Super Bowl airtime for the first time in 37 years, and will instead donate $1 million to the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative’s Vaccine Education Initiative.
  • Coca-Cola, Hyundai and others will also sit out this year's big game and provide money for charity instead.

The Super Bowl has always been a moment for brands to make a statement, but increasingly, the game has become an opportunity for brands to talk more about their values than their products.

The big picture: With roughly 100 million households expected to tune into the event, the Super Bowl has been one of the most visible advertising opportunities every year.

  • This year, ads are going for about $5.5 million for 30-second spots.

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