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Megan Amrich headshot

Super Bowl LV Advertisers - Who’s In, Who’s Out and What’s Different in 2021?

Viewers of Super Bowl LV will notice many changes to this year’s event, especially with advertising, in keeping with the “new normal” of pandemic life.
By Megan Amrich
Super Bowl LV

Viewers of Super Bowl LV on February 7 in Tampa will notice many changes to this year’s event, in keeping with the “new normal” of pandemic life. Fans (including 7,500 vaccinated healthcare professionals) will fill only one-third of the seats at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium in compliance with social distancing restrictions. Amanda Gorman, the National Youth Poet Laureate who made international headlines during President Biden’s inauguration, will read her new poem celebrating frontline workers, making her likely the first poet in Super Bowl performance history. Finally, while several brands will be making their Big Game advertising debuts, many of the biggest names traditionally associated with Super Bowl commercials will sit out this year.

Here’s a look at some of the companies choosing to make a statement by advertising - or not advertising - during Super Bowl LV on Sunday.

New faces at Super Bowl LV include Chipotle and Hellmann’s

Many Americans are eating more – if not most - meals at home as COVID restrictions continue. Several of this year’s first-time Super Bowl advertisers reflect this shift.

Fast-casual restaurant chain Chipotle will make its big game debut with a second-quarter commercial entitled “Can a Burrito Change the World?”. The ad follows a little boy as he imagines how a single meal – in this case a Chipotle burrito – could make farming and more sustainable, including, “how we plant things, water things, grow things, pick things, move things.”

The ad reflects Chipotle’s focus on “The Next Generation of Farming.” Along with the commercial, Chipotle has promised $5 million over the next five years to help young farmers and ranchers keep their businesses sustainable – both in environmental impact and in profitability. On Super Bowl Sunday, Chipotle will donate $1 from each delivery order to the National Young Farmers Coalition.

As Americans ate more at home over the past 12 months, they also threw away more food. Mayonnaise brand Hellmann’s (branded as Best Foods on the West Coast) is addressing the growing food waste crisis in its first-ever Super Bowl commercial. The spot, which stars Amy Schumer, encourages viewers to use Hellmann’s mayonnaise to get creative with their fridge and pantry contents, and “make taste, not waste.”

In addition to raising awareness through the Super Bowl ad, Hellmann’s is donating $100,000 to ReFED, a nonprofit committed to reducing food waste in the United States. Hellmann’s also will be partnering with Harvard Law School's Food Law and Policy Clinic to “push for clearer food labeling standards” and prevent food waste caused by unclear date labels on food.

Returning players: Anheuser-Busch brands

Since 1975, Anheuser-Busch has held the exclusive beer-advertising rights during the Super Bowl. This year, the company will air four minutes of ads over the course of the game. While as of press time, Anheuser-Busch had yet to release exactly how this airtime would be split up, the company had confirmed they will be highlighting six brands: Bud Light, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, Michelob Ultra, Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer, Stella Artois and Cutwater Spirits. There will also be a standalone Anheuser-Busch corporate spot.

One exciting new development for Super Bowl LV: all of Anheuser-Busch’s Super Bowl television spots have earned gold-level Green Seals for Sustainable Production by the Environmental Media Association (EMA), a nonprofit group focused on linking leaders in the fields of entertainment, entrepreneurship and environmental progress.

The EMA Green Seal is an “established set of guidelines for sustainable production of TV, movies and events.” Every employee and vendor involved in the production of each commercial – from makeup to catering to filming to transportation – was required to meet the EMA’s sustainability standards. Anheuser-Busch is the first major advertiser to partner with the EMA and plans to continue these new sustainable best practices across all future marketing and advertising productions.

A legend takes a different approach: Budweiser

It is going to seem strange (for this New England-based writer, at least) to see Tom Brady wearing a non-Patriots uniform in this year’s Super Bowl. But another Super Bowl staple will also look different this time – Budweiser.

Unlike the six Anheuser-Busch brands mentioned earlier, Budweiser will not air a commercial during this year’s game.

Instead, according to the official press release, the brand will take the money traditionally spent on airtime and “reallocate that investment to support the Ad Council and public awareness and education throughout the year for the COVID-19 vaccination effort.”

There is still a new Budweiser commercial; however, it is running online only. The advertisement, entitled “Bigger Picture” and narrated by Rashida Jones, reflects on America’s heroes in the fight against coronavirus.  

Maybe next year: Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Hyundai, Avocados from Mexico

Budweiser isn’t the only brand saving on ad buys this Sunday. Coca-Cola and Pepsi also will be absent from the Super Bowl LV advertising lineup. Pepsi will still be the title sponsor of the halftime show starring The Weeknd, though, and parent company PepsiCo will be airing ads for some of its other brands. Other big names opting out of this year’s Super Bowl include Hyundai and Avocados from Mexico.

It remains to be seen whether or not advertisers’ decision to “sit out” Super Bowl LV is a one-off response to the strange times we are currently living in, or the start of a trend away from TV advertising and toward alternate promotions.

Image credit: Ryan Haft/Unsplash

Megan Amrich headshot

Megan is a writer and editor interested in sharing stories of positive change and resilience. She is the author of Show Up and Bring Coffee, a book highlighting how to support friends who are parents of disabled children. You can follow her at JoyfulBraveAwesome.com.

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