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.

Just Posted

Proprietor of Sweet Truck, Morgan Ray, as she hands off her baked goods to a customer. (Photo courtesy of Avrinder Dhillon Photography)
Vancouver Island baker eyes move back from food truck to bricks and mortar

Storefront offers more stability amid growth in sales: Ray

Emissions from the City of Abbotsford's vehicles make up the largest share of the municipality's emissions.
File photo
Vancouver Island councillor leads campaign to reduce building-sector GHG emissions

Courtenay’s Will Cole-Hamilton pushing for building emission legislation

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

Thousands protested in Victoria following the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. not exempt: New report documents 150 years of racism and the fight against it

Booklet marks province’s 150th anniversary with call for transparency, change

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

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

(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

A mobile home fire prompted a quick response from firefighters Saturday around 3:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Mobile home up in flames at Duncan RV Park

One patient burned, EHS on scene

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Works crews have begun to install roads and other infrastructure to service the Nigel Valley redevelopment project that will bring nearly 800 new housing units to Saanich over the next several years. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Prep work begins on massive Nigel Valley development in Saanich

Construction of first two developments expected to begin fall 2021, B.C. Housing says

Gregory Ould, co-founder and executive director of Blanket BC, drops off warming blankets to Our Home on Eighth shelter in Port Alberni during a tour of Vancouver Island on Feb. 19, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Blanket BC delivers warmth, hope to Vancouver Island’s homeless

Gregory Ould donated blankets, toques in five communities

Duncan Christian’s Grace George lines up a shot during the three-point portion of the BC School Sports Pandemic Basketball Challenge after taking a pass from Cam Stevens. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Duncan Christian leads the way in pandemic basketball challenge

School tops participation numbers for second time this year

The shadow cast of the Satyr Players production of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’: Linda Dohmeier as Dr. Scott, Olivia Erickson as Columbia, Brandon Caul as Rocky, Christopher Carter as Brad, Charlie Prince as Eddie, Branden Martell as Riff Raff, Jenna Morgan as Magenta, Megan Rhode as Janet and Adrien Kennedy as Dr. Frank-N-Furter (clockwise from left). (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
VIU student actors go online for 25th-annual ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’

Satyr Players theatre company to broadcast pre-recorded shadow production

Most Read