Big Brands Skip Out on Super Bowl Ads

While I'm not generally interested in football, I'm part of the population that watches the Super Bowl; but for the real show: the commercials. Each year, I look forward to seeing brands pull out all the stops for the oh so coveted spot of best commercial. From last year’s hilarious "Smaht Pahk" by Hyundai, to Apple's groundbreaker "1984" ad, people remember the commercial just as much, if not more than, the game.

This year, however, there's a looming gray cloud surrounding the excitement of the game. While most people, myself included, enjoy having plenty of friends and family over to watch, this year the rule of thumb is to not attract a big crowd. Because of COVID, your party and the beloved commercials, may look a bit different this year.

In the past few weeks, major brands have pulled out of previously planned commercial slots. So far, Hyundai, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Budweiser and a few others have all pulled out. It costs, on average, over five million for one of those precious 30 second slots, which is something brands don't feel comfortable shelling out right now. With a mix of high costs, and reading the room, there's a slew of reasons as to why these big names are stepping on the breaks for the first time in years.

Budweiser has become a fan favorite by incorporating their Clydesdale horses into all their ads. However, this year they've decided that they will use their ad dollars differently. Instead of a regular commercial, they will be partnering with the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative to use their airtime and ad dollars to raise awareness of the COVID vaccine. Other brands from Anheuser-Busch will still be airing ads, just not their main attraction. Instead, the "Bigger Picture" ad will be shown:

At the other end, Coca Cola is opting out for financial reasons. Due to COVID, their sales had been impacted, which caused them to reevaluate their spending. Coke reportedly had a 28% dip in profits in their second quarter. With the impact of COVID, a restructuring plan was put into place that included cutting 2,200 employees. They then decided that they couldn't sacrifice that type of expense in times like these.

The other brands that have pulled out all have cited multiple reasons surrounding their decision. Hyundai not only wanted to save their resources, but decided that because they don't have a new launch coming soon, that those ad dollars would be best spent elsewhere. Little Caesars, a brand that only recently started paying for Super Bowl ad time, decided that they just didn't have a message they wanted to share this year. Many brands just decided that now really isn't the right time for them.

With the current climate, it's hard to gauge what to do. Is it appropriate to advertise as if all is normal? Should COVID and the uncertain times be mentioned in the ad? Do you make a lighthearted ad or use this time to make a statement? With whatever path you choose to take, the audience is going to have something to say. There will be a lot of people complaining about how annoying it is to see ads talk about COVID while others will be glad that it wasn't over looked and vice versa. Right now, it's hard being an advertiser.


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