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Gearing Up for the Big Game: What to Expect From a Not So Normal Super Bowl

January 26, 2021

Grab your masks and your personal pizzas—the Super Bowl is just around the corner, and this year’s advertisers are gearing up for what will surely be a game like no other.

While some Big Game elements may never change (hello Tom Brady and his fierce rivalries), between scaled-down viewing parties and major brands sitting on the bench, it’s no surprise that this year’s Super Bowl is going to look very different from years past.

The Heavy Hitters are Sitting This One Out

Major brands with a historically notable Super Bowl presence, such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Budweiser, have decided not to advertise this year.

2021 marks 10-years that Pepsi has sponsored the halftime show at the Super Bowl, and this year they are replacing their usual ad spot with a new campaign to advertise their halftime show featuring The Weekend. But fear not, Mountain Dew, who is owned by PepsiCo, will once again return to the Super Bowl with what we can only imagine will be a humorous and star-studded spot.

Pepsi’s longtime competitor, Coca-Cola, will also sit this year out, focusing instead on “investing in the right resources during these unprecedented times.”

Another Super Bowl ad MVP, Budweiser, known for having some of the most memorable and popular Super Bowl ads of all time, will be breaking with 37 years of tradition and not advertising during this year’s game. Instead, they will focus their 30-second spot in partnership with the Ad Council in bringing awareness to COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

A Golden Opportunity for Smaller Advertisers

With the Super Bowl advertising giants sitting this one out, smaller brands now have a unique opportunity to make a stronger impact with their advertising. This year’s ad lineup features many first-time advertisers, including Chipotle, Vroom, Doordash, and Scotts Miracle-Gro.

In recent months, we have observed a similar trend of new players in the ad game outperforming well-established, big-name brands. Stepping out from these larger brands’ looming shadow will allow smaller advertisers, who spent roughly $5.5 million for a 30-second spot, the chance for their ads to (hopefully) break through the clutter and garner more ad and brand memorability.

How We Will Be Watching

With most bars and restaurants across the country restricted to low capacity or remaining closed altogether and a crowd limit on at-home Super Bowl parties, the game’s overall viewing dynamics are going through a shift. But what kind of impact will that shift have on engagement and viewership?

With fewer people watching from crowded bars and restaurants, there could be less of an opportunity for viewers to get distracted, enabling people to pay closer attention to the game (and therefore, the ads themselves.) On the other hand, many people only tune in to the Big Game for the sake of the event itself, and without the excitement of a surrounding crowd whooping and cheering, will the less-dedicated fans still bother to tune in?

Additionally, a growing number of people (Millennials in particular) are cutting their ties with cable providers altogether, opting for Wifi-only subscriptions or live TV add-ons to current streaming services, such as YouTube TV or Hulu Live. Without a bar or friend/family’s house to watch the game at, this group of viewers could shrink this year.

Luckily, this year’s game features an exciting lineup, with returning Super Bowl champs the Kansas City Chiefs facing off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (and their famous QB Tom Brady). This new rivalry might help make up the difference in viewership that the pandemic will undoubtedly have diminished.

We’ll See You at Kickoff

While the Super Bowl is still the biggest advertising event of the season, this year’s game is packed full of changing factors whose outcome nobody can predict. We don’t yet know how viewers will engage this year versus years past or how the lack of larger advertisers will affect smaller brands’ performance.

However, we know that it is more important than ever to track the effectiveness of in-game advertising. Phoenix Brand Effect is the only tool that can effectively track and measure ad memorability in the context of this new and ever-changing viewing landscape.

Phoenix’s Super Bowl LV 360 Report provides a deep-dive analysis of performance at the brand and ad level. More than just a ranking system, our analysis helps advertisers understand specific drivers of success in this highly unique airing environment. We are also incorporating the Phoenix AdPi Score into our 360 report for the first time, providing a second-to-none in-depth analysis into creative drivers behind the ads’ performance.

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