How Super Bowl LV Will Be Like No Other

How Super Bowl LV Will Be Like No Other

Written by: Stephanie Bariatti, SMB Media Marketing Consultant 


            When the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the field on Sunday, February 7th, it will mark several milestones in Super Bowl history.  Tampa Bay will be the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium, Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady will play in his record 10th Super Bowl and his first as a Buc, and with COVID-19 health restrictions limiting stadium capacity to 22,000 fans, it will be the lowest attended Super Bowl.


            But that’s not all.  Super Bowl commercials are just as famous as the Super Bowl itself. How will they be different this year, in the wake of the pandemic?  What firsts or differences will we see in the cost and content of this year’s ads?  


            CBS, who is broadcasting the Super Bowl this year, is reportedly selling their spots at a whopping $5.5 million per 30 seconds.  Despite this hefty price tag, which is actually the same as last year, CBS says it has sold all of its inventory.  One difference, though, is that it may have taken longer than in recent years.  The Super Bowl is still THE event to reach a mass television audience, but industry insiders have said this year the challenge is getting the right tone and that has caused some brands to hesitate.     


            People are indeed looking for brands to take this kind of a stand, so do expect to see bold brands using Super Bowl air time as a chance to really get their message across.  But it’s a tricky endeavor.  It’s risky to stay silent.  But, with a nation so divided, brands acknowledge they will inevitably isolate a portion of consumers and their plans could backfire. 


            In fact, some of the big names that we are used to seeing year after year, have decided to sit this one out altogether.  More than a dozen big names are skipping this year, including Budweiser.  For the first time in nearly four decades, Budweiser won’t air a Super Bowl commercial.  The decision by Anheuser-Busch InBev to sideline the brand follows similar moves by Coca-Cola and Pepsi (although Pepsi will still sponsor the halftime show), signaling that big brands are taking a markedly different approach to this year’s game as COVID and political strife continue to dominate the news cycle.  Instead of running an ad for Bud, AB InBev will reallocate the spending to support the Ad Council’s coronavirus vaccine public education campaign.  However, AB InBev, will still use at least four minutes of national ad airtime for Bud Light, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, Michelob Ultra and Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer.     


            Some other notable brands forgoing Super Bowl LV include:

  • Audi
  • Avocados From Mexico
  • Facebook
  • Hyundai
  • Little Caesars 
  • Olay 
  • Pop-Tarts
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups 
  • Sabra Hummus 


            So who will we see?  Vroom, Fiverr, Chipotle Mexican Grill, DoorDash, Huggies, Hellmann’s, Scott’s Miracle Grow and e-commerce platform Mercari are the latest brands to announce they have made their first Super Bowl ad buys.  And returning to the big game are M&M’s, Mountain Dew, E*Trade, Pringles, Cheetos, Doritos, TurboTax, Toyota and Weather Tech.  The decision made by these companies to purchase Super Bowl ad time indicates they may have done quite well during the pandemic. 


            What other novelties can we expect to see from the Super Bowl ads?


            We can definitely expect to see a strong emphasis on everything COVID-related.  Listen out for all the buzzwords of the year, like “contactless,” “touchless,” and “delivery.”  Also, phrases that we’ve heard ad nauseum, like “the new normal,” “unprecedented,” “now more than ever” and “these challenging times.”  Chelsey Pendock from Innovation Advertising jokes that “we can all probably play 'Super Bowl bingo' by listening for [these] phrases.”  Some brands will also not shy away from showing actors wearing masks and following social distancing protocols. Don’t expect to see any big party scenes.   


            However, on a more serious note, we do think there will be a push toward more conscientious messaging.  As mentioned earlier, brands are feeling compelled to speak out, but that doesn’t mean it has to be as polarizing as taking a stand on political or social issues.  It could also be as simple as spreading themes of lightheartedness, hope and warmth.  A good laugh or a feel-good, uplifting moment is worth a lot these days.  


            Another first will be the lack of trailers and promotions for theatrical motion pictures.  Super Bowl ad time used to be a good opportunity for film studios to showcase their upcoming summer blockbusters or highly anticipated movies or series. Of course now, there is not much on the slate, so there will be none of that.  Yet, we should still see a big showing from celebrities in various spots, which can be attributed to two things.  First, advertisers may have not used much of their budget during the first part of the pandemic, so they now have extra dollars to spend on big talent.  Second, there may have been greater availability and willingness from said talent due to shutdowns and delays in production. 


            It should be an interesting day for advertising.  We will probably also see more interactive ads, more real-time and immersive experiences and more integrated mobile marketing.  Since most people will be watching from their homes this year, it may be easier to establish an immediate connection via smartphones.  


            Many ads or teasers have already been released.  If you’d like to check them out before game day, you can visit AdWeek’s comprehensive tracker at



Stephanie Bariatti works as a Consultant and Project Manager for SMB Media Consulting.  She has had extensive experience with many facets of advertising and media, having worked for and with creative agencies, production companies and research departments.  She lives in New York with her wonderful husband, three lovable little boys and a snuggly Golden Retriever.