This image provided by Budweiser shows two health care workers getting vaccinated in an advertisement Budweiser is running before the Super Bowl. For the first time since 1983, when Anheuser-Busch used all of its ad time to introduce a beer called Bud Light, the beer giant isn’t advertising its iconic Budweiser brand during the Super Bowl. Instead, it’s donating the money it would have spent on the ad to coronavirus vaccination awareness efforts.(Budweiser via AP)

This image provided by Budweiser shows two health care workers getting vaccinated in an advertisement Budweiser is running before the Super Bowl. For the first time since 1983, when Anheuser-Busch used all of its ad time to introduce a beer called Bud Light, the beer giant isn’t advertising its iconic Budweiser brand during the Super Bowl. Instead, it’s donating the money it would have spent on the ad to coronavirus vaccination awareness efforts.(Budweiser via AP)

Budweiser joins Coke, Pepsi brands in sitting out Super Bowl

Four minutes in advertising still expected for other products by Anheuser-Busch

For the first time since 1983, when Anheuser-Busch used all of its ad time to introduce a beer called Bud Light, the beer giant isn’t advertising its iconic Budweiser brand during the Super Bowl. Instead, it’s donating the money it would have spent on the ad to coronavirus vaccination awareness efforts.

Anheuser-Busch still has four minutes of advertising during the game for its other brands including Bud Light, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, Michelob Ultra and Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer. Those are some of its hottest sellers, particularly among younger viewers.

But the decision to not do an anthemic Budweiser ad — which over nearly four decades has made American icons of frogs chirping “Budweiser,” guys screaming “Whassup!”, and of course the Budweiser Clydesdales — showcases the caution with which some advertisers are approaching the first COVID-era Super Bowl.

“We have a pandemic that is casting a pall over just about everything,” said Paul Argenti, Dartmouth College professor of corporate communication. “It’s hard to feel the exuberance and excitement people normally would.”

The Anheuser-Busch move follows a similar announcement from PepsiCo., which won’t advertising its biggest brand, Pepsi, in order to focus on its sponsorship of the the halftime show. (It will be advertising Mountain Dew and Frito-Lay products). Other veteran Super Bowl advertisers like Coke, Audi and Avocados from Mexico are sitting out the game altogether.

These big-brand absences are just one more way Super Bowl LV will look very different from previous years. Attendance at the game will be limited to 22,000 people, about a third of the more than 65,890 capacity of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. And Super Bowl parties will be more likely to be smaller affairs with pods or families.

“I think the advertisers are correctly picking up on this being a riskier year for the Super Bowl,” said Charles Taylor, marketing professor at Villanova University. “With COVID and economic uncertainty, people aren’t necessarily in the best mood to begin with. There’s a risk associated with messages that are potentially too light. … At the same time, there’s risk associated with doing anything too sombre.”

The pandemic has cut sharply into sales for many Super Bowl advertisers. With pricey ads costing an estimated $5.5 million for 30 seconds during the Feb. 7 broadcast on CBS, some may have decided it’s not worth it this year. Coca-Cola, for example, has been hard hit since half of its sales come from stadiums, movie theatres and other usually crowded places that have been closed during the pandemic. It announced layoffs in December, and said it said it wouldn’t advertise this year to ensure it’s “investing in the right resources during these unprecedented times.”

To fill the void, newcomers like the TikTok rival Triller, online freelance marketplace Fiverr and online car seller Vroom are rushing in to take their place. Returning brands include M&M’s, Pringles, Toyota and others.

Companies that are running ads this year face a number of challenges. Super Bowl ads are usually developed months in advance and shot in the fall, meaning that ads airing in two weeks were shot under costly pandemic conditions and without any idea how the presidential election would turn out. That further complicates the already delicate process of striking a tone that acknowledges what’s happening with the world, managing to either entertain or tug at viewer heartstrings, and finding a way to tie it all back to their brand.

“It’s a tough year to do an ad,” Argenti said. “It will be a good year for creative companies who figure out how to thread that needle.”

Monica Rustgi, Budweiser’s vice-president of marketing, said the brand is still calculating how much it will spend on vaccine awareness. But she said it will be a “multi-million dollar” commitment that includes donating airtime throughout this year for the non-profit the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative’s COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative.

Budweiser will still have a marketing presence around the big game. Starting Monday, the brand will air an ad that celebrates resilience during the pandemic, including a socially distanced birthday parade and athletes in Black Lives Matter jerseys. The ad, narrated by actress and director Rashida Jones, ends with health care workers getting vaccinated and talks about Budweiser’s donation.

In the era of social media and digital advertising, brands aren’t limited to running ads during one event, since consumers can see them online, everywhere from Facebook and Twitter to YouTube, Budweiser’s Rustgi said. Budweiser’s Super Bowl step-back also won’t be long-term, she said.

“The Super Bowl is the most popular sports event, aside from the World Cup, that anybody is going to see,” added Dartmouth’s Argenti. “An event that draws that many people to the advertising is never going to go away.”

Mae Anderson And Dee-Ann Durbin, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The emergency department at Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock, B.C., in July 2020. (Black Press Media)
Peace Arch Hospital Foundation reaches $12 million goal

New operating suites to open this fall

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on April 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Surrey RCMP asking for dash-cam video of ‘suspicious incident’

Incident involves a newer model Toyota Rav 4 SUV

Surrey RCMP are investigating a “serious” collision near Cloverdale Saturday evening. (Curtis Kreklau photo)
Surrey RCMP investigating ‘serious’ collision in Cloverdale

Witness says vehicle collided with utility pole at approximately 9:30 p.m.

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a personal support worker at the Ottawa Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Ottawa. Doctors in Alberta have signed an open letter asking for prioritized vaccination of health-care staff who work directly with patients on dedicated COVID-19 units. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID vaccines for seniors in B.C.: Here’s how to sign up

Seniors 90+, Indigenous seniors 65+ and Indigenous Elders can book starting March 8

The Kimber family of Boston Bar lost their home in a fire. Blaine Kimber’s daughter created a fundraiser to help rebuild the home with the goal of $100,000. (Screenshot/GoFundMe)
Fundraiser created for Boston Bar family that lost everything in weekend fire

Witnesses say the Kimber family escaped the fire without injury, but their home is a total loss

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Most Read