Amid a subdued Super Bowl week, brands call a marketing audible

As the pandemic continues to hammer the economy–and profoundly alter fans’ plans for this year’s big game–companies are adjusting ad plans accordingly.

Super Bowl marketing plans

The Super Bowl will be missing a few familiar faces this Sunday.

Somehow, Tom Brady will still manage to make an appearance. But several notable brands have decided not to run a Super Bowl ad this year.

For the first time in nearly 40 years, there will be no Budweiser Super Bowl commercial. Coca-Cola and Pepsi have also opted out.

Like everything else these days, the move is driven largely by COVID-19.

The year’s most expensive media buy – clocking in at $5.5 million – takes on a different tone for many organizations amid struggling business lines and layoffs.

Budweiser said it is “reallocating the media investment” to supporting the Ad Council and COVID-19 vaccine awareness. Coke also cited “these unprecedented times” in its decision to sit out the big game.

While flagship brands may be on the sidelines, it’s worth noting that a house of brands structure means these companies can still promote their other offerings. Anheuser-Busch can get credit for Budweiser’s purpose-driven marketing while still airing ads for Bud Light and Michelob Ultra.

Social distancing powers social media

The move also highlights a shifting marketing landscape. Budweiser still produced a Super Bowl ad, which will be promoted online via its social channels. Pepsi will still sponsor the halftime show, despite not purchasing a 30-second spot.

What’s more, COVID-19 is putting the kibosh on a lot of Super Bowl parties. That means ads will reach smaller, more subdued gatherings with fewer eyeballs per screen, prompting advertisers to rethink if the typical costly Super Bowl ad is the best way to engage their audiences.

Clearly, some of the world’s biggest brands think their money is better spent with different messages on different channels – including social media.

The move has prompted a lot of PR. This year, brands are getting more yardage out of ditching the traditional strategy than going with the status quo.

Long story short: No marketing effort should be on autopilot. Taking a step back to make sure your strategies and investments still align with your business goals should be part of every marketing playbook.

Hugh Braithwaite is CEO of Braithwaite Communications.

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