Latest News

What the 2021 Super Bowl Ads Mean for Communications

This past year has brought many changes – from remote work, restricted travel to wearing masks, and not being able to attend sporting events and concerts. These drastic changes were also seen in the advertisements aired during last night’s Super Bowl. While we traditionally see advertisers spending millions for the coveted airtime with the funny or heartwarming ads people have come to know and love, the impact of COVID-19 was clearly visible in ads seen last night. Just as the Pantone color can predict fashion trends of the next year, Super Bowl ads can often forecast what advertising and communications will look like for the remainder of the year. 

Budweiser chose not to air an ad during the Super Bowl for the first time in 37 years, instead choosing to channel money into boosting vaccine awareness. While the iconic Clydesdales were surely missed, Budweiser did release an ad “Bigger Picture,” narrated by Rashida Jones, that shared stories of how people “turned isolation into connection and strength into hope,” which aired two weeks ago during the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers playoff game. They join advertisers Audi and Coca-Cola on not airing an ad during this year’s game. This is a trend we anticipate will continue throughout 2021. Companies and organizations will likely redirect their CSR efforts to focus on COVID-19 relief, while communicating these philanthropic actions to their key audiences. 

In a world where consumers care more and more about what companies stand for and which organizations their dollars are supporting, advertisers like Chipotle chose to focus their Super Bowl spot on sharing their core values. In their first ever Super Bowl commercial, Chipotle focused on highlighting the sustainable impact they’re making in their “Can a Burrito Change the World” ad. Companies large and small have learned the consequences of supporting certain politicians or causes, whether that be boycotts of their products or support.

Many will notice that much of the ad space was purchased by companies who have seen growth during the pandemic. With more people staying home, ordering delivery, and following new at-home trends like gardening and deep cleaning (thanks to Instagram influencers Go Clean Co.), companies like UberEats, Miracle-Gro, and Tide also aired popular ads. Communications and marketing strategies in 2021 will generally feature footage, graphics and messaging focused on pandemic life, with an emphasis on remote learning, virtual work, wearing masks and hope.

While Super Bowl LIV was one of the last normal public events before quarantine, Super Bowl LV set the stage for what trends communications professionals can expect to see throughout 2021. 

To watch all of the Super Bowl ads from last night’s game, check out this Vulture article