Pepsi, Budweiser, Coca Cola Bench Their Ads for Super Bowl 2021

Jan. 25, 2021
The coronavirus pandemic is prompting three well known beverage brands to sit out this year's game.

Super Bowl 2021, taking place on February 7, may be missing a few polar bears, Clydesdale horses, and celebrities this year. That's because Coca Cola, Budweiser, and Pepsi are opting out of commercials during this year's big game. 

For the first time in 37 years, Anheuser-Busch is opting not to advertise the iconic Budweiser brand during the game. According to the company, the beverage giant will donate the money it would have spent on an ad to coronavirus vaccination awareness efforts. Anheuser-Busch will still have some presence throughout the game, however. With four minutes of advertising, other brands under the Anheuser-Busch umbrella will still be getting some air time. 

Coca Cola, another well known player on the advertising field, will be sitting out this year's Super Bowl as well. With falling revenues, restructurings, and layoffs, financial concerns brought upon, in part, due to a global pandemic appear to be weighing in on the decision not to advertise in one of the year's most expensive air time slots.  

“This difficult choice was made to ensure we are investing in the right resources during these unprecedented times,” Coca Cola spokesperson Kate Hartman told CNBC.  

PepsiCo, which is sponsoring the Super Bowl halftime show will be approaching its ad spend from a slightly different angle. Unlike years' past, when the beverage giant would focus ad spend on its flagship soda, this year the company is trying something new: a new campaign to call attention to the halftime performance.

Financial Impact

The financial impacts on companies and consumers is being slated as one of the reasons behind the change in this year's line-up. While some companies many struggle to afford the $5.5 million ad slots, others are trying to show situational awareness to the pandemic's impact on U.S. consumers. 

"I think the advertisers are correctly picking up on this being a riskier year for the Super Bowl,” Charles Taylor, marketing professor at Villanova University, told the AP. “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.

New Players in the Game

At least one new player in the Super Bowl ad game could be one to watch. Chipotle will air its first Super Bowl commercial this year, with special focus on its farmers and supply chain. The food service chain known for its burritos experienced a pandemic boon, with stock values having risen 72% in the last year. The company aims to focus its attention on its “food with integrity” pledge and how it sources its ingredients.

“We want to use this massive platform to help shift attention toward creating positive change for the challenges our food system faces and educate consumers on how they can make a difference,” Chief Marketing Officer Chris Brandt said in a statement.

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