For the first time since 1983, Anheuser-Busch will not advertise its iconic Budweiser brand during the Super Bowl, opting instead to donate the money it would have spent on the ad to coronavirus vaccination awareness efforts.
According to The Associated Press, Anheuser-Busch still has four minutes of advertising during the game for its other brands and hottest sellers — Bud Light, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, Michelob Ultra and Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer.
But the decision to not pitch Bud — which over nearly four decades has made American icons of frogs chirping “Budweiser,” guys screaming “Whassup!”, and the Budweiser Clydesdales in various scenarios, including a horse kicking an extra point over power lines — 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,” Paul Argenti, Dartmouth College professor of corporate communication, told the AP. “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 be 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 such as 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, Fla.
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.
“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 somber."
Newcomers such as TikTok rival Triller, online freelance marketplace Fiverr and online car seller Vroom are positioning to fill the voids. Returning brands include M&M’s, Pringles and Toyota.