If you think the Big Game is just about football, you should probably stop reading here. As a marketer, I see the Big Game as a stage for the real show: the commercials. Yeah, the Big Game is a big deal and all, but let’s be honest we are really just waiting for the commercials. It is always fun to see what brands get spots, what celebrities are involved, what statements are made, and how over the top some brands are willing to go.
A Few Things Were Missing
One of the most notable trends this year was the absence of some classic commercial stars. Do you remember seeing anything from Budweiser? Coke? Pepsi? It’s because they decided to opt out this year. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking these major brands must be crazy for skipping the biggest advertising event of the year… But brands that decided to take the year off did so for good reason.
Major Brands Were Missing
Perhaps the biggest hole in commercials this year came from Budweiser. For the first time in 37 years, Budweiser decided to withdraw and instead put their ad budget towards raising awareness for the COVID-19 vaccine. The beer brand made this announcement a few weeks ago in their campaign the “Bigger Picture”. This decision is actually turning out to be more effective than any Big Game ad has been in the past. Why? Because they struck the right tone with consumers, and it shows the Budweiser cares. One of the biggest marketing themes of 2020 was the desire for brands to be real with consumers and contribute to the greater good. Budweiser did just that.
CounterprogrammingCounterprogramming also grew in popularity this year as many brands opted for a more cost-effective strategy of social media, digital, and mobile marketing campaigns during the Big Game. Tums and Volvo both took their advertising efforts to social media with a bingo game hosted by Tums and a $2 Million sweepstakes hosted by Volvo. The idea behind counterprogramming is one, it’s cheaper, and two, brands get more than just a brief moment to engage with consumers.
Make Room for the Newbies
Due to the dropout rate of Big Game commercial pros, we saw a lot of commercial rookies make their debut. Some of these include Chipotle, Uber Eats, DoorDash, and DraftKings. All of these brands have been able to capitalize on changing consumer behavior over the past year.
Ads for EVERYONE
Another big theme of the Big Game? Inclusivity. After a year filled with a pandemic, heightened racial tension, and deeply divided politics, brands wanted to convey the message that everyone is included and welcomed. This was shown through commercial themes and casting decisions. The cast of the Amazon Alexa commercial, for example, was predominantly Black. Countless other commercials also featured Black stars like Daveed Diggs and Lil Nas X. Toyota also showcased the story of Paraolympian, Jessica Long, who was adopted from Russia and had to have both of her legs amputated due to a rare condition. Other brands made inclusivity the message of the ad. Indeed is a great example. Their commercial was about finding a job for everyone whether you are experienced, just starting out, young, old, etc. Many other brands went with the same message of inclusivity. And after this past year, it was an emotion that really struck a chord with consumers.
The Big Winners
So overall what brands had the most successful nights? Rocket Mortgage clocked in at number one with receiving spots one and two for best commercial based on consumer ratings. Amazon Alexa took third place with their commercial featuring Michael Jordan. M&M’s “come together” campaign featuring Dan Levy took the fourth spot. And Toyota’s commercial focusing on Jessica Long’s story was number five.
Overall, the Big Game looked different this year in every aspect. From the fans to the halftime show to the ads. No one was operating with the same resources we have had in the past, but brands were able to make the most of it and catch consumers' attention.