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Super Bowl 2021: Why Brands like Coke, Budweiser, and Pepsi are ousting their stars from in-game commercials this year


This year’s Super Bowl commercials can make viewers thirsty for more.

That’s because some well-known favorites like Coke and Budweiser won’t be competing for attention with multi-million dollar in-game ads when the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Super Bowl LV on February 7th. In fact, the beverage manufacturers Anheuser-Busch ABI,
Coca-Cola KO, + 0.26% and PepsiCo PEP, + 0.05%, put their star players all off in-game advertising during this already unprecedented pandemic NFL championship. The automaker Hyundai HYMTF, + 0.26% and Avocados From Mexico are also sitting out this Super Bowl – making way for newbies like Chipotle CMG, -0.44%,
DoorDash DASH, + 3.83% and Huggies will enter the big leagues with their first Super Bowl seats.

So why are so many all-star brands skipping one of the most watched television events of the year? Their parent companies say they shuffle their playbooks for a number of reasons, such as:

This week, Anheuser-Busch announced that it is giving up its traditional Super Bowl airtime in-game and plans to use that money instead to help raise awareness about COVID-19 vaccines. Although the company wouldn’t provide an exact dollar amount, a spokesman told MarketWatch that the total vaccine education and awareness donation will match the cost of advertising in the Super Bowl, calling it a “million dollar commitment.” That number could be around $ 5 million or more as ViacomCBS VIAC is reportedly aiming +1.14% to around $ 5.5 million to $ 5.6 million for 30-second Super Bowl spots.

This is the first Super Bowl in 37 years without a Budweiser commercial in the game. And it’s the first time in 20 years that neither Coke nor Pepsi have bought an in-game Super Bowl ad for their marquee brands.

It should be noted, however, that Budweiser will continue to produce a digital Super Bowl commercial that will be advertised online. And AB InBev’s other brands, including Bud Light and Michelob ULTRA, are still featured in in-game national Super Bowl commercials.

In a similar move, while PepsiCo didn’t buy a traditional 30-second commercial for its signature Pepsi brand, Soda, it bought six more ads for Mountain Dew and its Frito-Lay products. And it’s the decision to double up on the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show with The Weeknd instead this year … which is basically a 12-minute Pepsi commercial anyway.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola Co., Hyundai, and Avocados From Mexico all say they’re taking time out from in-game advertising this year to do the housework.

Cola has cut spending and products after the pandemic largely closed the restaurants, bars, cinemas and stadiums that would normally boost sales of its drinks around the world. The company announced last month that it was cutting 2,200 jobs worldwide last month, including 1,200 in the US

“The Coca-Cola Company has decided to get out of the big game this year. This difficult decision was made to ensure we were investing in the right resources in these unprecedented times, ”a company spokesperson told MarketWatch via email. “We toast our fellow brands with an ice cold Coke from the sidelines.” While the company wouldn’t reveal how much money it would save by getting its marquee soda brand out of the way from a Super Bowl commercial, Coke admitted $ 10 million for commercials placed on Fox’s 2020 broadcast of Super Bowl LIV, according to global insight and analytics company Kantar.

On the flip side, Avocados From Mexico has seen record sales as more Americans cook at home. The company sold £ 2.1 billion of avocados in the U.S. this fiscal year and expects to sell £ 2.3 billion in 2021. But Ad Age reports that CEO Alvaro Lugue recently told The Packer magazine that the company is “using this year as” a year to reinvent ourselves and do some things differently before we return to the Super Bowl in 2022. ”

A Hyundai spokesperson also told Ad Age that the company will be pulling out of this year’s Super Bowl “based on marketing priorities, when we will launch vehicles and where we think it would be best to distribute our marketing resources.” But they added, “We will definitely be back.”

Many other factors also play a role.

Most companies start planning and creating their Super Bowl ads the summer before the big game. But whether there would be a Super Bowl at all in 2021 was up until recently, which drastically cut lead time for multi-million dollar commercials. “I don’t think all of their ducks have been back to back to be this creative,” said Satya Menon, who heads the return-on-investment practice at Kantar. She told MarketWatch that a lot of brands were probably considering whether it was better to “step in with a half-hearted ad, or is it better to just sit it out?”

“I think some companies definitely played it that way,” she said.

In addition, the tense and divided social and political landscape of the past year may have given companies cause for pause. “People are very wary of the emotional tonality,” Menon said, reckoning that the ads that air this year will include humor to ease the tension. “There’s a bit of ‘let’s be careful in this environment’ that may have played a part” when you’ve decided to skip this year’s Super Bowl.

CBS announced on Jan. 27 that its commercial inventory for Super Bowl LV had just sold out, which was just over a week and a half before the game. Meanwhile, Fox reported that its 2020 Super Bowl advertising inventory was sold out through November 2019.

In addition, the Super Bowl, which aired about a month before the US pushed through economic shutdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19, last year saw a record $ 450 million in ad revenue, Kantar reported, with Anheuser -Busch was the largest funder, followed by Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo. Coke and Hyundai were also in the top 10 Super Bowl ad spend last year. And the four have withheld all ads this year.

In fact, this will be the first Super Bowl in 37 years without a Budweiser commercial in the game. And it’s the first time in 20 years that neither Coke nor Pepsi have bought an in-game Super Bowl ad for their marquee brands.

Menon noted, however, that these absences could turn into power games. For example, Sam Adams faked the Budweiser Clydesdales in his own Super Bowl commercial … which created even more buzz around Bud this year. “Your absence might be just as noticeable as your presence. People think about why they’re not there and talk about what they actually did, what a PSA is, ”she said. “I think you actually played a smart game.”

And that has also given way to newbies like the food delivery service DoorDash, the online marketplace Mercari and the online freelance platform Fiverr, who have benefited from people spending more time at home, to start their own Super Bowl ads for the first time to profile. Kimberly-Clark-owned KMB, -0.27% Huggies, will also air the first-ever diaper commercial during a Super Bowl with its second quarter spot of babies born on game day.

“There are a lot of e-commerce players coming in,” added Menon. “And they will actually get a lot for their money if they create awareness for their brands and what they actually do.”

With Americans likely to watch the game at home with just a few family members this year, as many bars and restaurants remain closed and the pandemic continues to rage, advertisers may have a more captive audience than ever. After all, smaller Super Bowl watch parties mean a noisy bar or house full of screaming friends and family is unlikely to drown out what’s happening on screen for a change.

“More attention could be paid to the ads this year,” Menon said. “This is actually a great opportunity that the brands that have withdrawn are losing in my opinion.”


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