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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.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Feb 5, 2021 - Technology

Tech preparations for a very different Super Bowl

Photo: Verizon

Due to the pandemic, this year's Super Bowl is different from any past championship game. And tech is playing a big role.

The big picture: You'll need a smartphone just to get in the door, as there are no paper tickets. Concessions are also mobile payment only — no cash.

Mike Allen, author of AM
8 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."