• Live Oak Management

Super Bowl Campaigns in the COVID-19 Era: How Did the Influence Shift?

By Lauren Gibbons-Neff, Account Executive


For many Super Bowl viewers, the commercials are more memorable than the actual football game. With this in mind, advertisers were tasked with finding the correct tone to address the coronavirus pandemic, social injustice, and a variety of issues we currently face. Each organization had a different take on how it should address the unusual world we are living in. Some brands decided to take a safe route and donate the funds that would usually go towards their annual commercial campaign, while others made an effort to uplift Americans with some humor during this trying time.


Brands that decided to run ads during the Super Bowl faced the reality of 2020 and had to find a way to communicate their vision in a respectful light. For example, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade’s ad depicted 2020 as a “lemon of a year,” while partygoers are pelted with lemons. Other companies used humor and celebrity appearances to distract viewers from the reality of 2021. Drake was featured in State Farm’s Super Bowl commercial, acting as a spin-off of their classic “Jake from State Farm” ad, taking the role as “Drake from State Farm.

As previously mentioned, some organizations, such as Budweiser and Coca-Cola decided to take a break from advertising this year. Budweiser, usually known for their tear-jerking stories of Clydesdale ponies befriending yellow labrador puppies, decided not to air a Super Bowl commercial for the first time in 37 years. Instead, in partnership with the Ad Council, the company is “reallocating the media investment” to raise awareness about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Similarly, Coca-Cola decided to sit this year out. Their statement read: "This difficult choice was made to ensure we are investing in the right resources during these unprecedented times. We'll be toasting to our fellow brands with an ice-cold Coke from the sidelines.” The corporation made a strong yet humble statement by straying away from such an iconic night for commercial advertising, but it could be argued that they gained more positive press from spending millions on COVID-19 vaccine awareness, rather than spending the money on a 30-second ad.


It is a valuable lesson for audiences to recognize the power of television advertising while also learning how organizations can make an even bigger impact by reallocating the usual marketing funds to modern social movements. Consumers are beginning to focus more on the transparency and accountability of the organizations they decide to spend money on, and only time will tell how television advertising will evolve after the pandemic.


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