NEW YORK – For the first time since 1983, when Anheuser-Busch used all of its ad time to introduce a beer called Bud Light, the beer giant isn't advertising its iconic Budweiser brand during the Super Bowl. Instead, it's donating the money it would have spent on the ad to coronavirus vaccination awareness efforts.
Anheuser-Busch still has four minutes of advertising during the game for its other brands including Bud Light, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, Michelob Ultra and Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer.
But the decision to not do an anthemic Budweiser ad – which over nearly four decades has made American icons of frogs chirping “Budweiser,” guys screaming “Whassup!” and, of course, the Budweiser Clydesdales – showcases the caution with which some advertisers are approaching the first COVID-era Super Bowl.
“We have a pandemic that is casting a pall over just about everything,” said Paul Argenti, Dartmouth College professor of corporate communication. “It's hard to feel the exuberance and excitement people normally would.”
The Anheuser-Busch move follows a similar announcement from PepsiCo., which won't be advertising its biggest brand, Pepsi, in order to focus on its sponsorship of the halftime show. (It will be advertising Mountain Dew and Frito-Lay products). Other veteran Super Bowl advertisers such as Coke, Audi and Avocados from Mexico are sitting out altogether.
“I think the advertisers are correctly picking up on this being a riskier year for the Super Bowl,” said Charles Taylor, marketing professor at Villanova University. “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.”
To fill the void, TikTok rival Triller, online freelance marketplace Fiverr and online car seller Vroom are rushing in to take their place. Returning brands include M&M's, Pringles and Toyota.
Budweiser will still have a marketing presence around the big game. The brand will air an ad that celebrates resilience during the pandemic, including a socially distanced birthday parade and athletes in Black Lives Matter jerseys.