By: Janice Caston, SVP, Global Marketing

With the Super Bowl LV fast approaching, there’s lots of hype around the event and the brand marketing that will (or won’t) take place. We all know that those coveted Super Bowl commercial spots can be as impactful and talked-about as the big game itself. But what can we expect to see going into 2021’s Super Bowl Sunday?

It’s the “year of the brand”

For starters, we’re predicting that this will be the year of the brand. Let us explain. Consumers increasingly look to brands to communicate their values and to better the economy and the world. Brands need to mean something, and to share what they stand for. Today’s consumers expect authenticity and are less likely to pay a premium for a brand that isn’t communicating their values.

This comes on the heels of a tumultuous 2020, where we ended up seeing consumer sentiment deteriorate because many brands weren’t acting in a way they would have expected or liked to see.

Consider this: In a recent study, we found that 35% of people said 2020 changed their personal values. A whopping 55% say they pay more attention to brand values today than they did a year ago. And 59% of people say they have made a purchase from a brand just because they believe in that brand’s values.

Brands understand this new need and are increasingly investing in not only understanding what consumers want of their brand, but how best to communicate those values. To their part, we’ve seen brands dig in and understand what consumers want, and in turn have updated their advertising efforts, made sure their messages aren’t tone-deaf and communicated their values in a meaningful, on-brand way for their target audiences.

We’re expecting brands to pivot accordingly.

Most years, Super Bowl ads are notoriously feel-good and funny. But based on the predictions and data above, we’re watching for brand messaging to take center stage in 2021.

What will we see this year? Likely a mix of meaningful and light-hearted advertising, with an emphasis on the emotional, but with bright spots to bring much-welcomed levity. We expect to see ads presented in a relevant way that’s on message and will be well-received by consumers.

But brands that don’t nail it could face potential backlash from consumers. Content has the potential to divide or unite, and brands aren’t immune to that.

Be on the lookout for big changes, too.

We’re gearing up for mega-brands like Budweiser to use their advertising dollars to fund COVID testing in lieu of their world-famous Clydesdale commercials of the past (which Sam Adams is said to be riffing off of). It’ll be the first year in the past 37 that Bud will sit this one out, though its parent company is said to have purchased airtime for three of its other brands, including Bud Light.

Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Hyundai are reportedly opting out of their traditional Super Bowl ads, too, with Coke reps saying they want to invest their resources in the right place during unprecedented times. Hyundai’s leadership points to the uncertainty from the pandemic for this decision.

Chipotle is said to have a human-focused sustainability-themed ad, and Ford is spotlighting their PPE donation campaign for underserved communities. Indeed is expected to run an emotional spot about the job-hunting process, which many are experiencing.

Watch for some much-needed laughs.

Times are difficult for many, which some brands are using as an opportunity to set the heavy aside and make people laugh. Wayne’s World is partnering with Uber Eats, Jason Alexander takes center stage in a Tide ad and Amy Schumer finds herself in front of a fridge full of mayonnaise on behalf of Hellman’s.

Key takeaways

This Super Bowl, look out for brands and brand values to take center stage. Why? Because it is mission-critical that brands understand what consumers are looking for and communicate in ways that are relevant and meaningful – a lesson being carried over from last year’s learnings and informed by current consumer insights. Many are keeping pace of change, getting regular insights from consumers and testing the communications methods they’re considering.