For the first time in nearly four decades, Budweiser will not be running a commercial during the Super Bowl (which is free to watch online this year). The beer brand announced Monday in place of a Super Bowl 2021 commercial, it will be donating the money it would have spent on the ad to raise awareness about the coronavirus vaccine. Anheuser-Busch will still have four minutes of advertising during the Big Game for its other brands including Bud Light, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, Michelob Ultra, and Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer.
In a statement, Budweiser vice president of marketing Monica Rustgi said the brand is "eager to get people back together, reopen restaurants and bars, and be able to gather to cheers with friends and family," according to USA Today. Rustgi explained that "to do this, and to bring consumers back into neighborhood bars and restaurants" that were impacted by the ongoing pandemic, "we're stepping in to support critical awareness of the COVID-19 vaccine." The brand announced that it will donate some of its advertising airtime throughout 2021 to the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative, a coalition of experts in health, education and the economy, with Clarissa Dickinson, a spokesperson for Budweiser, calling it "a multi-million dollar commitment."
For the first time in 37 years, we aren’t running a commercial during the Super Bowl. Instead, we’re helping to safely bring America back together again soon. Watch to learn how. pic.twitter.com/vpfnqDoDMK— Budweiser (@budweiserusa) January 25, 2021
Although this will be the first time since 1983 that Budweiser has not run a Super Bowl ad, it will run a 90-second ad titled "Bigger Picture" on digital platforms before and during the Super Bowl. The commercial is narrated by actress Rashida Jones.
The company is not the only one passing on the primetime commercial real estate. Pepsi, Coke, Audi, and Avocados from Mexico have also opted not to run commercials during the big game, the Associated Press reported. PepsiCo will still be airing ads for Mountain Dew and Frito-Lay products. In their place, TikTok rival Triller, online freelance marketplace Fiverr and online car seller Vroom are reportedly vying to grab airtime. M&M's, Pringles, Toyota, and numerous others will still air ads.
"I think the advertisers are correctly picking up on this being a riskier year for the Super Bowl," Charles Taylor, marketing professor at Villanova University, said of companies' decisions to forgo ads. "With COVID and economic uncertainty, people aren’t necessarily in the best mood to begin with. There's a risk associated with messages that are potentially too light. ... At the same time, there’s risk associated with doing anything too somber."
Budweiser is known and loved for its Super Bowl ads. For Super Bowl 2020, Budweiser got patriotic with an ad directed by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow meant to "celebrate the essence of the American spirit by spotlighting ordinary people doing extraordinary things across the nation." In 2019, the brand brought back its iconic Clydesdales for a commercial set to Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind." Super Bowl 2021 between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be played on Sunday, Feb. 7, with kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. ET.