The latest victim of the pandemic is the Super Bowl.
This year’s Super Bowl, scheduled for next month between Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will look very wildly different from previous years.
Attendance at the game in the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, will be limited to 22,000 people, about a third of the stadium’s capacity.
The Super Bowl event is huge, expensive, and a source of incredible passion for fans.
Worldwide, roughly 30 million households watch the five-hour extravaganza, assuming a little over five people per Super Bowl party.
Just running a 30-second commercial to the more than 100 million people watching the game costs nearly $5 million. It’s an advertiser’s bonanza, and the stuff of advertising legend.
But not this year.
Some U.S. companies who would never before have entertained the thought of missing their traditional Super Bowl advertising slow are bowing out this time around. Rather than spending money on Super Bowl commercials, they’re opting to spend more responsibly--or not at all.
Super Bowl-time household names such as Coca Cola, Pepsi and Budweiser have all announced they will forego game time ads.
Budweiser announced earlier this week that for the first time in 37 years it will not use its annual Super Bowl commercial slot. Instead, the company said it would use the money for “media investment" to raise awareness about the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Later this year, Budweiser hopes to support recovery on-premise at bars and restaurants by accelerating COVID recovery so people can reunite again," the company said in a statement.
Likewise, Coca-Cola said it would not air a Super Bowl ad to "ensure we are investing in the right resources during these unprecedented times”. The company said it might run a commercial just before kickoff, however.
Car-makers Audi and Hyundai also decided to sit out the Super Bowl this year. Pepsi won’t cancel the Super Bowl altogether but instead is promoting its flagship soda by sponsoring the halftime show.
Meanwhile, a slew of new advertisers, mostly pandemic darlings, such as an online freelance marketplace Fiverr and Triller (a rival to TikTok), are stepping in after a stay-at-home year that propelled their businesses into new stardom.
Scotts Miracle-Gro, Vroom and DoorDash are also among the brands that have revealed plans to advertise for the first time.
The online broker E-Trade also announced it would return to Super Bowl advertising after a two-year break. The company said its commercial would have a spot encouraging consumers to “kick” their finances into shape, after the troubles caused by the pandemic.
Yet, Super Bowl commercial space was changing even before the pandemic. In recent years, companies still haven’t minded paying top dollar for Super Bowl commercial space, but they have started to take issue with paying celebrities to feature in them.
Even during last year’s Super Bowl we saw some fresh faces featuring YouTube, Instagram and reality stars.
That’s at a time when influencer-sponsored ads have grown by more than 150% in the last year.
Brands are set to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022, up from as much as $8 billion last year, and up from $500 million in 2015.
By Tom Kool