The Super Bowl is arguably a bigger day for brands than for the NFL.
Advertisers normally use the event to debut the year’s biggest ad campaigns, taking advantage of the huge audiences that tune in live every year.
This year, of course, is different, as we trod through an ongoing pandemic and a turbulent social climate.
But the game must go on — for brands and for fans. A 30-second spot during the Super Bowl, scheduled to air on Feb. 7 on CBS from Tampa Bay, Fla., is selling at an estimated $5.5 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. And CBS has officially sold out of its inventory, as of Wednesday.
So, who is tackling the Big Game spot — and who is sitting on the sidelines?
Back in the game
While some Super Bowl mainstays are sitting out the game this year, many brands are returning to the field.
Procter & Gamble
P&G’s Super Bowl ad asks people to close the “chore gap.” In 65% of homes, the responsibility for most chores still falls on one person, according to the consumer products giant. P&G encourages everyone to pitch in cleaning at home, from mom and dad to the kids. “Because when we work together, we’re better. In our homes and out,” the voiceover says.
Last year, P&G combined several of its brands into one Super Bowl commercial starring Sofia Vergara, Rob Riggle and Busy Philipps.
McDonald’s returns to the Super Bowl this year with an ode to its drive-thru customers, who showed up during the pandemic. The spot features customers singing along to their favorite songs like 24kGldn’s “Mood” and J. Balvin’s “Mi Gente.” Last year, the fast-food giant featured orders from famous figures (real and fictional) including Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Julius Caesar and the Big Bad Wolf.
McDonald’s is back in the game this year despite Q4 global sales dipping 7.4% year over year.
Instead of its usual in-game buy, Ford opted for a regional ad targeting states hit hard by COVID-19, including southern California, Texas, Florida and Kansas City. The auto brand’s #FinishStrong campaign focuses on donating PPE to underserved communities.
Ford also debuted a campaign for new Bronco Sport in January, which the automaker said it designed to feel “Super Bowl-worthy.”
T-Mobile CMO Matt Staneff confirmed on Twitter on Tuesday, Feb. 2. that the mobile carrier will return to the Super Bowl for the eighth year in a row. Comedian Anthony Anderson and his mom starred in T-Mobile’s 2020 Super Bowl campaign.
TurboTax is back in the Super Bowl for the eighth year in a row. The spot, titled “Spreading Tax Expertise Across the Land,” promotes the tax preparation software’s knowledgeable experts.
Last year, the brand reminded viewers that taxes are something everyone has in common in its 2020 Super Bowl ad, “All People Are Tax People.”
Squarespace teamed up with Dolly Parton for the Super Bowl on an ad featuring a remix of her 1980 hit “9 to 5,” The new song, titled “5 to 9,” pays tribute to entrepreneurs hustling after work hours to make their dreams come true.
The spot is the latest celebrity-studded ad from Squarespace during the Super Bowl. Last year, the website builder enlisted Winona Ryder for an ad featuring the actress creating a website on the outskirts of Winona, Minn., where she was born.Squarespace previously featured Keanu Reeves (2018), John Malkovich (2017), Key + Peele (2016) and Jeff Bridges (2015) for its in-game ads.
Bud Light reunited classic characters for this year’s spot, from the Bud Knight and “I love you man” guy to the singer from the brew’s “Real Men of Genius” commercials. Cedric the Entertainer and Post Malone, who previously starred in Super Bowl ads for Bud Light Seltzer, also reprise their roles in the nostalgic ad.
General Motors tapped comedian Will Ferrell in a series of spots teasing its upcoming Super Bowl commercial. Ferrell jokingly shares his dislike for Norway, where people buy more electric cars than anyone in the world.
The ad, which is part of the automaker’s “Everybody In” campaign from McCann Worldgroup, promotes the Lyriq, GM's first electric vehicle. GM will also air a second ad, created by Leo Burnett, that will plug the luxury brand Cadillac.
Amazon will return to the Super Bowl with an ad featuring Michael B. Jordan as a human version of Alexa. In the ad, a married woman imagines the “Black Panther” actor as her real-life Alexa — to the dismay of her husband.
Last year, the e-commerce giant tapped star couple Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi for its humorous Super Bowl ad. Amazon Alexa announced its celebrity voice program in 2019. Later that year, Samuel L. Jackson was named the device’s first celebrity voice.
Verizon is back with an in-game ad for the fourth year in a row. The wireless provider has also invested $80 million in permanent 5G deployments at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Fans with iPhone 12 can engage with seven different camera angles in the stadium and five angles at home in the NFL’s mobile app. Viewers can also project AR overlays of NFL’s Next Gen Stats for players.
Verizon also launched a virtual Verizon 5G Stadium in Fortnite.
Coors Light is going where no brand has gone before: into your dreams. The Molson Coors brand, which can’t advertise during the Super Bowl for competitive reasons, is entering its consumers’ psyches with a commercial that can only be seen while asleep.
Coors Light teamed up with dream expert Dr. Deirdre Barrett to create a “targeted dream incubation” that uses scientific stimuli to induce “the most refreshing dream you'll have all year.” Coors Light created a stimulus film and an eight-hour soundscape that triggers the listener’s subconscious into dreaming about the ad, which will be released on Feb. 3.
Tide is back with another hilarious commercial for the Super Bowl. This time, the detergent brand tapped Seinfeld star Jason Alexander to animate a teen’s hoodie as it goes through the (sometimes gross) situations of everyday life.
The ad promotes the P&G brand’s new Tide Hygienic Clean, which removes visible and invisible dirt. Last year, Tide brought the laughs in a funny spot starring actors Charlie Day and Emily Hampshire.
Digital broker E*TRADE is returning to the Super Bowl after a two year hiatus, but its not bringing back past Super Bowl icons including its spokes-baby or the E*TRADE monkey. Instead, it will air a commercial called “Workout.” The spot follows a young boy’s fitness journey to encourage people to take control of their finances. E*TRADE’s participation comes after a big year for online investing.
Sam Adams is spoofing Budweiser’s iconic commercial featuring Clydesdales horses with a little help from Your Cousin From Boston. The 30-second spot starts out similar to a Bud commercial, until Your Cousin From Boston accidentally sets the horses free.The promotion is for Sam Adams’ new “Wicked Hazy” IPA.
Despite parent company PepsiCo sitting out the big game, Mtn Dew is returning for a second year with a spot promoting its newest flavor: Major Melon. The teaser takes viewers on a journey through a theme park inspired by watermelon and Mtn Dew bottles. A dog made out of watermelon slices barks before heading to a movie theater. "Life Changing Flavor Is Coming To The Super Bowl," the marquee reads.
The animated spot takes a different approach from last year, when Mtn Dew spoofed “The Shining” in an ad starring Bryan Cranston and Tracee Ellis Ross.
On Monday Feb. 1, Mtn Dew revealed that John Cena is the spokesperson for Mtn Dew’s Major Melon ad, which teases an upcoming contest by the soda brand that will award $1 million to the first person who correctly tweets the exact number of Mtn Dew Major Melon bottles that appear in the ad.
Frito-Lay, another PepsiCo brand, is launching three Super Bowl ad campaigns this year to promote its throwback ‘90s era Doritos 3D Crunch and new Cheetos Crunch Pop Mix. Frito-Lay released a teaser for the Cheetos ad, starring Ashton Kutcher.
Another Frito-Lay spot, which will run just ahead of the Super Bowl, will feature NFL stars Peyton and Eli Manning, Troy Aikman and Deion Sanders.
WeatherTech, TurboTax, Pringles, Toyota
WeatherTech and TurboTax have bought ad time for the eighth year in a row, while Toyota and Pringles are both back for the fourth year in a row. Last year, WeatherTech aired an inspiring ad about the CEO’s dog, Scout, who beat cancer. TurboTax and Pringles opted for light-hearted spots, while Toyota tapped “How I Met Your Mother” actress Cobie Smulders as the face of its 2020 campaign.
And after sitting out last year, M&M’s will return with a spot slated to air during the first commercial break after kickoff, marking the Mars Wrigley brand’s sixth Super Bowl spot in the last decade. M&M’s will debut the spot on Feb. 3 via a Zoom call hosted by spokescandy Yellow.
Super Bowl debut
Bass Pro Shops
Bass Pro Shops encourages people to enjoy the great outdoors during the pandemic in its first-ever Super Bowl ad. The 60-second spot, “Get Back to Nature,” shows people dusting off their outdoor gear before heading outside. The ad promotes Bass Pro, Cabela's and Tracker Boats. “We’re all family in the great outdoors,” the tagline reads.
Robinhood is making its Super Bowl debut amid a barrage of negative PR following the GameStop trading crisis. Robinhood debated changing the ad or pulling the spot, which it bought in December, but decided to move forward after seeing interest in the service spike in light of the news, Wall Street Journal reported. All press is good press?
The spot is part of the online brokerage’s “We are all investors” marketing campaign, and aims to encourage viewers that anyone can invest.
State Farm teased its first Super Bowl commercial featuring brand spokesperson, Jake. The teasers allude to a newcomer joining the State Farm brand ambassador team, which already includes Kansas City Chief’s Patrick Mahomes and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
"Everybody Loves Raymond" actor Brad Garrett stars as Tony Bolognavich, the “King of Cold Cuts,” in Jimmy John’s first Super Bowl commercial. Bolognavich runs a mob-like sandwich shop, but he’s got some fierce competition with Jimmy John’s.
Payments platform Klarna tapped comedian Maya Rudolph as the spokesperson for its Super Bowl debut. In the ad, four quarter-sized Rudolphs are on the hunt for a new pair of boots. The spot promotes Klarna’s "Pay in 4" deal, which allows customers to shop anywhere online and pay for it in four, interest-free payments.
Diabetes management company Dexcom makes its Super Bowl debut with spokesperson Nick Jonas, who wonders why diabetes management has lagged over the years. The singer, who has type 1 diabetes, promotes Dexcom G6, which allows people to view their glucose levels on a cell phone. 2020 has been a lucrative year for Dexcom, who reported $1.9 billion in total revenue in October.
Dr. Squatch released its first Super Bowl ad to promote its all-natural soap for men. The direct-to-consumer brand touts that its product is for manly men — who aren’t afraid to let their daughters braid their hair. The personal care company’s sales skyrocketed in 2020 clocking in at roughly $100 million.
Logitech will debut its first Super Bowl ad this year, 60-second spot, titled “Defy Logic,” featuring rapper Lil Nas X.
Logitech has been on a big influencer push this year, reporting in May that sales of its video production products, including cameras, microphones, and software for online meetings, increased by 60 percent year-over-year.
Mike Myers and Dana Carvey reprise their roles as “Wayne’s World” characters Wayne and Garth in Uber Eats’ first Super Bowl commercial.
The decision to advertise its food delivery service shows where the ride share giant is placing its bets during the pandemic. While Uber’s ride share business struggled, bookings more than doubled for Uber’s delivery arm in the third quarter and rose 23% from the previous quarter, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In a nod to the rise of sports betting, DraftKings will debut its first Super Bowl campaign with two 15-second spots featuring host Jessie Coffield. Fans can enter a free pool on fourth quarter predictions during the game, with prizes including payouts ranging from $3 to $25,000. The winner will receive $1 million. DraftKings’ monthly unique players surged by 64% to more than 1 million after the return of pro sports in July.
Gong is also getting into the game with its first ever Super Bowl commercial this year. The tech startup’s conversation intelligence software tripled revenues during the pandemic as company sales teams looked for better ways to close deals.
Indeed kicks off a brand new campaign with its first Super Bowl ad featuring a majority of real job seekers. During the game, people can also search for open roles from other companies and industries advertising during the game. The campaign aims to help people find jobs as employment rates skyrocket during the pandemic.
Cutwater Spirits will air its first Super Bowl ad in West Coast markets including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Seattle.
The canned cocktail brand’s “Cut Out” campaign stars “Schitt’s Creek” actress Emily Hampshire showing her love for the outdoors — and cracking open a can of Cutwater. The campaign includes a social media rollout featuring Hampshire giving her own at-home interpretations of the theme.
Chipotle will run its first-ever Super Bowl ad this year, focused on its suppliers’ sustainable farming practices. In the spot, a young boy rhetorically asks, "Can a burrito change the world?"
Chipotle will donate $1 from every order made on Super Bowl Sunday to the National Young Farmers Coalition, and the company will waive delivery fees for orders made through its website or app. Chipotle’s digal sales have more than tripled in the last two quarters.
For the first time, Hellmann’s is joining the Super Bowl lineup. The Unilever brand’s debut commercial stars comedian Amy Schumer encouraging people to waste less food each year. In the teaser, Schumer walks into a refrigerator stocked with Hellmann’s mayo and mysteriously sprouts wings.
Hellmann’s will also pledge to its initiative “Make Taste, Not Waste” with a $100,000 commitment to ReFED, a nonprofit that works to reduce U.S. food waste.
Huggies is the first diaper brand to air a Super Bowl commercial. The spot will feature babies born on Feb. 7, the day of the big game. The ad comes as the birth rate declines in the U.S. amid the pandemic.
DoorDash tapped “Hamilton” star Daveed Diggs and “Sesame Street” muppets Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Grover for its first Super Bowl ad. The spot recreates the children show’s “People in Your Neighborhood” song into “The Neighborhood,” about all the things people can order in their communities from DoorDash.
The delivery service will also donate $1 (up to $1 million) to the Sesame Workshop for every order it receives on Super Bowl Sunday.
Online freelancer platform Fiverr will air its first Super Bowl ad during the championship game, as freelancing and distributed work take off during the pandemic.
In a teaser for the 15-second ad, Fiverr celebrates small businesses — including the infamous Four Seasons Total Landscaping, who’s owner, Marie Siravo, featured opening the company’s garage door. The landscaping business went viral after attorney Rudy Giuliani scheduled a press conference in the company’s parking lot for former President Donald Trump.
Scotts Miracle-Gro, Vroom, Triller
Other newbies include Scotts Miracle-Gro, e-commerce car retailer Vroom and video-sharing app Triller, which is looking for a bigger branding moment as it grows its user base past 65 million monthly actives. The TikTok competitor was accused of allegedly inflating its user numbers after claiming it reached 100 million monthly users in October.
Online marketplace Mercari will air its first Super Bowl commercial as part of its “Goodbye, Hello” campaign. The spot follows people saying “goodbye” to old items and “hello” to new merchandise.
On the bench
In a sign of its new ownership, Hulu will not run a stand alone campaign at the Super Bowl this year, instead appearing in an ad for the Disney Bundle, which includes Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu. Disney made its first big TV push for the bundle in May during Fox’s “The Masked Singer.”
Last year, Hulu aired a 30-second spot starring Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Tom Brady.
After famously killing off its 104 year-old Peanut mascot last year and bringing him back as a baby but in its Super Bowl ad, Planters is making a charitable donation in lieu of airing a spot during the game this year. The campaign, created with VaynerMedia, will donate money that would’ve gone to a spot to people doing charitable work or “acts of substance.”
Auto brands sit out
Audi, Ford, Hyundai and Kia are opting out of the Super Bowl this year after car sales plummeted in the pandemic.
Kia is sitting out the game after more than a decade of airing Super Bowl ads. Instead, the automaker will donate funds through its “Accelerate the Good” charity program. Last year, Kia pushed its “Never Give Up” message with a heartfelt ad starring Las Vegas Raiders' Josh Jacobs, who was homeless growing up.
For Hyundai, it’s the first time skipping the big game in 12 of the last 13 years. The auto brand aired its star-studded ad “Smaht Pahk” ad in 2020, featuring Chris Evans, John Kransinski, Rachel Dratch and Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz.
Last year, Audi tapped “Game of Thrones” star Maisie Williams for its Super Bowl spot promoting its first all-electric vehicle.
Instead of advertising in the game this year, Ford debuted a campaign for new Bronco Sport in January, which the automaker said it designed to feel “Super Bowl-worthy.”
Budweiser won’t be advertising in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1983, instead donating the funds it would have spent on an ad to coronavirus vaccination efforts.
Budweiser is, however, running an in-game spot for Bud Light Seltzer, and the brand will appear in a spot for parent Anheuser Busch InBev.
Coke & Pepsi
Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, usually huge advertisers in the Super Bowl, have opted out of the game this year as sales fell flat amid the pandemic.
Coca-Cola, which recently kicked off a massive global review of its $4 billion media and creative agency business, said it is sitting out the game to “ensure we are investing in the right resources during these unprecedented times,” a spokesperson told Variety.
Pepsi, for its part, will sponsor the annual halftime show featuring The Weeknd, and run an ad campaign promoting the show, but will not air a stand alone spot for the brand, as it has done for the past 20 years.
Avocados from Mexico
Avocados From Mexico is also sitting out the Super Bowl after airing ads six years in a row.
Other brands throwing in the towel this year include Little Caesar’s, Olay, Sabra and SodaStream.