This Sunday, February 7th, one of the most watched events in America occurred: the Super Bowl. Many viewers who tuned in for the game itself and the iconic halftime show also anticipated a great lineup of advertisements from large and well-known companies. However, as COVID-19 continues to spread at an alarming rate, commercials for the 55th Super Bowl looked different.
Both Budweiser and Coca-Cola decided not to advertise this year. This was the first time in 37 years that Budweiser did not air an ad in the Super Bowl. Instead, they opted to take $1 million out of the astronomical $5.5 million that would have gone to the 30-second ad slot and invest in COVID-19 vaccination awareness efforts. Budweiser is planning on contributing to the Ad Council, a nonprofit that makes public service campaigns, and Covid Collaborative’s Vaccine Education Initiative, a group of experts and institutions in public health. Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, the company that owns Budweiser, still bought commercial slots for its other brands like Bud Light, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, and Michelob Ultra.
Coca-Cola Co., which has advertised in the Super Bowl every year since 2006, has struggled due to movie theaters and restaurants closing down, leading to their decision not to air a commercial this year. They released a statement on Friday which said that the difficult decision was made in order to invest “in the right resources during these unprecedented times.”
Although the familiar Clydesdales and polar bears did not show up during the commercial breaks this year, many other companies bought time slots for the first time in order to generate interest around their products. Vroom Inc., an online used-car marketplace, focused on the aspect that customers can have a vehicle brought to them contact-free. One of the biggest inspirations for this idea came from the pandemic, as many car dealerships were forced to close down.
Just how Vroom Inc. came up with their model due to the repercussions of the pandemic, Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. also referenced the pandemic in their first ever Super Bowl ad. Their ad aimed to remind individuals that during a time of social distancing and limited traveling, one’s own backyard can serve as a sanctuary of comfort.
Many Super Bowl commercials in the past have highlighted current issues in subtle ways that wouldn’t engender backlash. For example, the 2017 Super Bowl Ads focused on political themes such as immigration. Budweiser’s ad showed the story of their founder who immigrated from Germany to Missouri in 1857 to pursue his dream of brewing and selling beer here in the United States. 84 Lumber, a building supply company, told a moving story of a mother and daughter migrating to the United States. Airbnb expressed support for diversity and inclusion, implying criticism against former President Trump.
COVID-19 has impacted so many individuals and communities in unimaginable ways this past year. Therefore, it’s critical that companies be mindful about what ads they present in order to reach out to viewers in a considerate way that doesn’t come off as insensitive to their current circumstances. All in all, the excitement of the Super Bowl and the creative ads hopefully provided a day of enjoyment for many this Sunday.