Here is how the Super Bowl ads will be different this year

Super Bowl LV will be played tomorrow, in case there has been a news blackout in your house for the past few days. It’s the main focus of stories during sports segments on network and cable news shows. As with everything else in our lives, Super Bowl ads will be different this year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. This year the focus is less on selling products and more on feel-good, inspirational messages.

Neither the Kansas City Chiefs nor the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are favorite teams of mine, I’ll admit. Sometimes the Super Bowl ads are the best part of the game. My personal favorites have included the Budweiser ads with the Clydesdale horses. So, I was disappointed to read that Budweiser is taking a different approach to their commercials and going with a message in support of coronavirus vaccines. Their advertising dollars will go to vaccination awareness – no Clydesdales this year. Then the ad from Sam Adams beer dropped and they use the Clydesdales in their ad as a spoof on Budweiser.

Other products from Budweiser’s parent company will be advertised, too.

In the week leading up to Super Bowl LV, 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.

Alice Sylvester, the co-founder of Sequent Partners, a marketing measurement analytics consultancy, said that Budweiser is taking purpose-driven marketing to the next level and differentiating itself from Super Bowl advertisers whose commercials will air during the game.

“It speaks to the long tail impact of Super Bowl advertising, which is as much about brand building than it is about short term revenue generation,” Sylvester said.

The company isn’t entirely giving up promoting its beer. Budweiser is giving U.S. 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.

The Budweiser ad finds a way to insert the BLM message as it pans to NBA players taking a knee in Black Lives Matter shirts, which reminds us of the dominant message for advertisers this past year. Shares of Budweiser parent AB InBev have fallen 14.5% in the last year, despite an increase in drinking at home during the pandemic. The loss is likely due to coronavirus restrictions like bar closings and no sports fans in stadiums during the last year. There will still be commercials for beer, cars, outdoor life, and retailers.

The Bud Light ad speaks for us all – “2020 was a lemon of a year.” Pepsi and Coke are taking a pass on running ads for their beverages. Pepsi is spending its dollars on sponsoring the half-time show and Coke notes a decrease in revenue by 13% during the first nine months of 2020. Coke attributes that loss to the fact that consumers aren’t out drinking their products in restaurants and other places outside of their homes.

Amazon is running an ad likely to please a lot of ladies. It is one of the companies focusing on products that help out with working from home.

Amazon Prime Video has an ad for everyone.

Bass Pro Shops and subsidiary Cabela’s remind us that getting outside when possible is a good thing. We can get some fresh air while taking off our face masks if no one else is nearby – my interpretation, not theirs.

It is smart marketing to alter their messages to fit the times. No one is out living a normal life right now. Seeing a couple of the beer ads being previewed, though, reminds us about that, especially the ones simulating people gathering in bars or other places. In most areas of the country, bars are closed or at least limited in customer capacity. Even with the sequel to Coming to America, we’ll be streaming that in our homes, not going out to a movie theatre to see it.