How brands are navigating the ‘riskiest Super Bowl ever’

A Super Bowl spot has always been a precarious investment. But given all of the current factors, participating this year could be the riskiest play of all. While some of the biggest brands are sitting out. Others are ready to step up and be the winners.

For the first time ever, the brands sitting out the Super Bowl have been generating more buzz than the gutsy marketers who are putting up the $5.5 million to participate. Inventory, which sold out in November for the previous Super Bowl, is still available as Avocados from Mexico, Coca-Cola, Ford, Hyundai, Pepsi-Cola, Sabra and others have already taken a seat on the sidelines.

Other brands have been slow to announce their plans given a news cycle rife with coronavirus, careening unemployment numbers and Capitol violence. Now as the big game draws near and the US presidential inauguration passes into the rearview, new announcements are on the horizon.

To date, there has been a blend of familiar brand participants (Anheuser-Busch, Frito-Lay, M&M’s, Mountain Dew, Pringles, Toyota and TurboTax) mixed with up-and-comers that have thrived during the pandemic. Fiverr and Vroom will join the line-up for the first time and now TikTok competitor Triller is allegedly in the fray, reports Ad Age (Triller declined comment). Plus, Scott’s Miracle-Gro announced its first appearance.

Each brand will be forced to find the right tone during a difficult moment unlike any other, says former New York Times advertising columnist Stuart Elliott. “The Super Bowl is going to require a real gut check for marketers in terms of whether they’ll be able to walk the tightrope between striking the right tone and misfiring by alienating people with the wrong approach.”

Elliott says this Super Bowl is the riskiest for marketers. Other trying times included the period after 9/11, the financial crisis and the Gulf War. “You can say people are in a bad mood. They’ll welcome a chance to relax and to have a regular Super Bowl and escape the terrible news. Then you can flip the argument and say that it’s tone deaf to run a Superbowl ad and pretend that that things are normal,” says Elliott. “I can see either side of that stance.”

Then there are other significant factors as at play. Big parties are out of the question and there are serious questions about whether viewership will take a hit. NFL ratings were down 7% for the season marking the first decline in three years. “It’s incredibly complex,” says Robert Passikoff, president of marketing consultancy Brand Keys.

“The Super Bowl was about the parties and getting together. That ain’t happening. Then there’s the fact that they took every sport and crammed them into a short period of time. People are worn out. They’ve binged everything. I suspect the pure return-on-investment isn’t going to be there for many.”

Read More at: The Drum

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