February 8, 2021
When the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hit the turf at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on February 7 for Super Bowl LV, many viewers will be watching the advertising spots as avidly as they watch the plays.
According to an analysis by Ad Age, this year, there’s no question that the pandemic has affected what we’ll see during the commercial breaks. From who is in—and out—of the Big Game, to the tone of the spots and who is being featured, this year’s commercials are poised to look vastly different. Among the trends we’ll be watching are the following, the global media brand predicts:
Big void. There will be a void in some typical Super Bowl categories: Think soda, cars, and movies. Neither Coke nor Pepsi will air commercials for their flagship cola brands; nor will automakers Hyundai and Kia light up the screens with their latest models. Currently, just five car commercials from three nameplates (as well as Vroom, the online auto dealership), are expected to run.
Super Bowl LV also will be light on trailers for blockbuster movies, as many theaters remain shuttered and productions continue to be delayed. Last year, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, Marvel, and MGM all aired commercials. Currently, Walt Disney Studios is the only studio expected to air trailers during the game, although it remains to be seen if any others have bought in.
Of course, the biggest brand to announce its absence on game day is Budweiser, which will be watching the Super Bowl from the sidelines for the first time in 37 years. Other brands sitting out include Avocados From Mexico, breaking its six-year streak; and Hulu, which has aired commercials during the last four games.
Newbies. Nineteen marketers set to make their Big Game debuts, compared to 11 first-time advertisers last year, Ad Age reports.
Brands like Scotts Miracle-Gro, e-commerce platform Mercari, online job site Indeed, online car dealership Vroom, online freelance platform Fiverr, DraftKings, DoorDash and Uber Eats, saw their businesses grow in 2020 thanks to a shift in consumer behavior amid lockdowns. Similarly, buy now, pay later firm Klarna and trading app Robinhood also have witnessed a change to how people want to conduct their finances.
While it’s likely most of these companies won’t turn into regular Super Bowl advertisers, their presence this year will certainly serve as an opportunity to put some of these brands on the map.
Small business support. As part of their Super Bowl campaigns, several marketers are showing their support for local and small businesses, which have been particularly bruisedfby COVID-19.
DoorDash’s commercial celebrates the businesses in your neighborhood with a new take on the Sesame Street classic song “The Neighborhood,” while Uber Eats is looking to persuade Super Bowl viewers to eat local with its ad reuniting “Wayne’s World’s” Wayne and Garth. Klarna is supporting small, women-owned and minority-owned businesses in its social media push around its Western-themed ad.
What’s more, part of Verizon’s campaign will aim to help small businesses achieve long-term survival. It includes a benefit concert immediately following the Super Bowl headlined by Alicia Keys, Eric Church, H.E.R, Brittany Howard, Luke Bryan, Brandi Carlisle, and Jazmine Sullivan.
Inclusivity. Amid the renewed social justice movement, some 2021 Big Game advertisers have worked to become more diverse in the creation and production of their ads. There’s still a long way to go, but more brands have made some strides this year.
Amazon’s Alexa is embodied by actor Michael B. Jordan, who is backed up by a predominantly Black cast. Several prominent Black stars—among them, Don Cheadle, Daveed Diggs and Lil Nas X—star in commercials for Michelob Ultra, DoorDash and Logitech, respectively.
Dan Levy, who represents the LGBTQ+ community, is featured in M&M’s spot. And Toyota tells the story of Paralympian Jessica Long.
In its first-ever Super Bowl ad, ndeed features a diverse group of job seekers—nearly all of whom are real people using the site. The message: Indeed finds jobs for all people.”
Nostalgia. From remakes of classic songs to some unlikely pairings, Super Bowl advertisers will look to bring viewers back to some happier times. Cheetos plays on Shaggy’s 2000 hit “It Wasn’t Me” for a humorous ad starring celebrity couple Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, who illustrate how to try to convince someone else you didn’t swipe their snacks.
In other spots, Uber Eats reboots “Wayne’s World,” which rose to fame on “Saturday Night Live” in the late 1980s. Dolly Parton turned her iconic “9 to 5” song into an anthem for the side-hustle in Squarespace’s ad with the title “5 to 9.” And a grown-up version of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” is the soundtrack to Shift4Shop’s Super Bowl ad promoting its sponsorship of the first civilian mission to space.
Finally, Bud Light resurrects some of its classic Super Bowl ad characters, like “I love you man” guy, Dr. Galazkiewicz, the “Real Men of Genius” singer and Cedric the Entertainer, who last appeared in a Bud Light Big Game ad in 2005.
Research contact: @adage