Top brands skip Super Bowl broadcast ads: Budweiser, Coke, Hyundai and Pepsi push vaccine awareness instead

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Budweiser is foregoing its annual Super Bowl commercial slot for the first time in 37 years, joining fellow juggernauts Coke, Hyundai and Pepsi in skipping this year’s Super Bowl broadcast amid the financial uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The beer brand said in a news release that instead of paying to air a Super Bowl ad, it will instead be “reallocating the media investment” to raise awareness about the COVID-19 vaccine throughout the year, in partnership with the Ad Council.

Budweiser isn’t entirely giving up promoting its beer in the run up to the game. Budweiser is giving US consumers who are at least 21 years old a free beer when they visit between Jan. 25 and Feb. 7.

AB InBev’s other brands, including Michelob Ultra, Bud Light and Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, will have in-game ads during the Super Bowl.
Budweiser isn’t the only major brand sitting out the game. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have said they won’t be running in-game ads for their namesake sodas.

Pepsi is instead focusing on its sponsorship of the halftime show, which stars The Weeknd. PepsiCo’s other brands, including Mtn Dew and Frito-Lay, are planning on airing commercials during the game.

In the week leading up to Super Bowl, Budweiser plans to run its Super Bowl ad digitally. The spot focuses on resilient Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, including a group of health-care workers who were the first to receive the vaccine. Actress Rashida Jones, known for her roles in “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” will narrate the spot.

The beer brand also plans to donate a percentage of its advertising airtime for 2021 to the Ad Council and Covid Collaborative’s Vaccine Education Initiative. Budweiser will support its efforts with additional campaigns throughout the year.

“Like everyone else, we are eager to get people back together, reopen restaurants and bars, and be able to gather to cheers with friends and family,” Budweiser vice president of marketing Monica Rustgi said in a statement. “To do this, and to bring consumers back into neighborhood bars and restaurants that were hit exceptionally hard by the pandemic, we’re stepping in to support critical awareness of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

According to the news release, Budweiser plans to donate some of its advertising airtime throughout 2021 to the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative, a coalition of experts in health, education and the economy. Clarissa Dickinson, a spokesperson for Budweiser, said she was unable to provide an exact financial value of the donated time but called it “a multi-million dollar commitment.”

CBS, which owns the television rights for Super Bowl 55, has sought $5.5 million for a 30-second spot during this year’s broadcast, according to multiple reports.

All four companies framed the move as a matter of strategy and resource allocation amid the pandemic, which has led to job losses and budget cuts across industries.

A Coca-Cola spokesperson told CNBC earlier this month that the company would not air a Super Bowl ad to “ensure we are investing in the right resources during these unprecedented times,” while a Hyundai spokesperson told Ad Age that “this was a decision based on marketing priorities.”
Pepsi, meanwhile, said it is simply prioritizing its sponsored halftime show.

“Instead of buying a traditional 30-second in-game Super Bowl ad, we decided to double down on the 12 minutes Pepsi already has in the middle of the game — the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show,” vice president of marketing Todd Kaplan said in a statement.

The absence of well-known brands has opened the door for first-time advertisers. Vroom, a platform for buying and selling used cars online, and DoorDash, a food delivery service, are among the companies that will air a Super Bowl ad for the first time this year.