Big Game Big Changes

Super Bowl LV, not business as usual

Following in the unchartered footsteps of an NFL season quite different from what fans have ever seen before, Super Bowl LV now steps into the spotlight. An event that last year drew $435MM in just under 60 minutes worth of advertising, now finds itself among the new frontier of 2021. This global stage for long-time advertisers and new entry brands looking to make a splash will now reveal what effects the pandemic and the social and political upheaval of 2020 have had on brand communications.

CBS was boasting of selling 80% of its ad inventory in early December, but industry experts agree that it’s the last 8 to 10 spots that are the hardest to sell. The expectation by most analysts is that 2021 will show less ad revenue, but brands will have the final say come February 7.

Amidst the speculation of how well Super Bowl LV will perform from an ad spend standpoint, we have specifically identified three major ways that brands are already adjusting to the new landscape.

Brands are breaking a tradition of traditional.

For the first time in 20 years, both Coke and Pepsi will forego running stand-alone, in-game ads. While Pepsi will save its media dollars for the halftime show sponsorship, the absence of big brand spots reflects how media dollars are shifting from traditional media channels – to more cost-effective channels like CTV and social networks. In 2020, television ad spending was down 15% while CTV increased 27.1% and social network ad spending increased 11.4%.

Coke and Pepsi aren’t the only brands opting out this year. Other major brands that plan to sit out the game include Hershey’s Co.’s Reese’s, Pop-Tarts, Audi and Hyundai. Olay has brought female-focused messaging to the Super Bowl the past two years, but this year they will shift their focus to International Day of Women and Girls in Science on Feb 11. Facebook will also be absent, instead planning to run ads during the Grammy awards.

For brands, it’s all about making media dollars work harder and smarter, and capturing audiences where they are in ways that reinforce their brand stories. PR hype and ranking in the USA TODAY ad meter just isn’t seen as valuable as delivering a strong targeted brand message.

Brand messages must hit the right note.

Over the course of 2020, many brands were accused of being tone-deaf – either by saying the wrong thing or failing to say anything at all. With tough lessons learned, brands that are choosing to advertise in the Super Bowl are sharpening their tone to be sure they hit the right note. In a recent AdColony Survey, 81% of consumers were most interested in watching humorous ads, with 36% interested in emotional or heartwarming and only 11% interested in political or social ads.

This year brands are looking to uplift spirits, while remaining cautious of anything that could further divide audiences. Kantar Media reports that messages that are simple and positive will resonate best with consumers.

Brands are connecting with consumers where they are.

As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out across the country, many continue to work from home and avoid large gatherings in an effort to limit the spread of the devastating illness. 69% of consumers surveyed aren’t planning on hosting a party of any size this year. Brands are tapping into these consumer behaviors by building brand experiences that connect with consumers where they are physically – as well as mentally.

A brand that is doing a great job of adapting their brand experience to in-home dynamics is Stella Artois. While they’ve previously run in-game spots in years past, this year Stella is opting out of the big game, and instead focusing on a partnership with Blue Apron to create an in-home experience custom designed for the event. They’re introducing Stella Stadium Bites, a game-day menu of four dishes that serve six people, along with a set of Stella Artois chalices to help wash it all down. For fans who need some extra coaching, Stella Artois has also brought in Victor Cruz and Eli Manning to provide tutorials in “Stella Sessions.”

Eli Manning and Victor Cruz are reuniting to help fans dominate their big game “home”gate with Stella Stadium Bites by Blue Apron. The duo will take to the field together once more to give fans the play-by-play of four winning recipes.

It’s been said that art imitates life, and this year we’ll certainly see how the art of advertising will reflect what life looks and feels like these days. The events of 2020 and their effects on the world will change the way brands communicate forever. As brands look to evolve their messaging, leverage the best media channels and create brand experiences that live outside traditional advertising spaces, they need the right partners to help them achieve these goals. Unbound’s unconventional and nimble model brings over 100 years of strategic planning and marketing expertise to help brands navigate this new frontier by identifying big opportunities and adjusting course accordingly.

So, give us a call at 816.589.3333, and let’s set up 30 minutes to discuss what opportunities 2021 holds for you.

Sources: eMarketer, Ad Age, Kantar Media