Marketing Insights TraDigital™

Why Skipping Out on Super Bowl LV is a Total PR Move

PR and the Big Game MHP/Team SI

Major brands are passing on the opportunity to promote their product during this year’s big game. Budweiser, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Ford all are opting, for various reasons, to allocate marketing dollars elsewhere. Rather than spend $5 million (and then some) on a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl, brands such as Anheuser-Busch, have chosen to spend the funds to help promote the greater good, i.e., COVID-19 vaccine awareness. Considering Americans have been in quarantine and living a life of social distancing for nearly a year, brands are under a lot of pressure to strike the right tone. This had us thinking, in a world consumed by COVID-19, social injustice and both health and economic crises, are consumers wanting the status quo or are they wanting brands to stand for something? 

With so many factors at play, Anheuser-Busch’s reasoning for sitting out of this year’s Super Bowl is a total PR move. It’s also a decision that has garnered significant positive earned media coverage. For some brands, sitting out of the most-watched live sporting event comes down to dollars and sense. The pandemic has impacted many industries, with hospitality, entertainment, tourism and retail among the hardest hit. Brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Budweiser feel it. Restaurant and movie theater closures mean their own bottom lines have been impacted, not to mention the pocket books of thousands of small businesses and the families that rely on them. 

By choosing to spend marketing dollars towards good corporate citizenship, brands are investing in their future in other, arguably more meaningful, ways. They’re essentially putting “money in the bank” of public opinion and building equity with consumers that will have a long-lasting effect on brand loyalty. Gen Z is the most diverse generation in history and represents more than 40% of all consumers. This group accounts for more than 66 million purchasers in the US and they choose to spend their money with brands who have a strong message of corporate social responsibility. 

Throughout the past year, advertising messaging has been consumed with phrases like, “during this uncertain time,” or “unprecedented challenges,” and while a majority of American consumers are wanting to move past those sentiments, the truth is we still have a long way to go. Choosing to opt out of traditional Super Bowl advertising may be the safest route for many brands, and from a messaging perspective, the right choice. Spending $5 million plus on a 30-second TV spot communicates its own message that could have a negative effect by seeming frivolous in a time when so many around the world are struggling. Furthermore, brands don’t want to strike the wrong chord and come off insensitive or tone deaf. Instead, brands who opt to spend resources giving back to their communities through grants, awareness or relief efforts will score points with consumers and create a better position for 2021. 

While giving back is sometimes viewed solely as a PR strategy, it certainly plays a role in overall brand awareness and purchasing decisions. A full TraDigital™ strategy includes all marketing elements, including public relations. If your brand is interested in learning more about how public relations and strategic messaging efforts can position your company for success in the new year, contact Kristen Nicholson, APR, Vice President of Public Relations at [email protected].


Kristen Nicholson