Consumers are likely to notice something else as they tune into the Super Bowl this Sunday: a bunch of advertisers they’ve never seen in the game before, many of whom boomed in business last year during the pandemic.
An ever-growing list of newcomers will spend around $ 5.5 million on a 30-second commercial to show off their products. Among them: Robinhood trading app; Fiverr freelance worker platform; Online grocery supplier DoorDash; Used car company Vroom; Mercari resale platform; Garden supplier Scotts Miracle-Gro; Employment website Indeed; Online betting company DraftKings; Chipotle restaurant chain; Kimberly-Clarks Huggies; and Hellman’s brand mayonnaise, owned by Unilever. And more will pop up as the game gets closer this weekend.
Some mainstays like Coke, Pepsi, and Budweiser are reluctant to buy traditional in-game ad time.
Companies advertising during this year’s game are at risk due to the coronavirus pandemic. Derek Rucker, who teaches advertising strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, said brands that are too serious might be perceived as a downer by consumers, but going too far in the other direction could also be counterproductive.
“Chances are that consumers don’t really like it when you are so irrelevant and disconnected,” he said. “The stakes are high and some brands are going to get it right and I want to see how they do it.”
Some of the new arrivals were useful to consumers at home during the pandemic. For example, DoorDash’s ad includes “Sesame Street” characters that highlight items such as paper towels (or yes, cookies) that can be delivered. The company started last year offer more Convenience items, housewares, and other health and wellness products during the pandemic when people tried to restrict their grocery travel.
Scotts Miracle-Gro said its Super Bowl ad should build on the momentum it gained during the coronavirus pandemic, CEO Jim Hagedorn told CNBC on Wednesday.
“We won around 20 million new customers in Covid last year. The aim is to keep them and to enlarge the market,” said Hagedorn at “Power Lunch”.
Hagedorn added that the Super Bowl was a way to reach out to these people and get them to stay.
“The Super Bowl is a great platform for the big, game-changing types of news for a business,” said Jim Nail, lead analyst for B2C marketing. In a year like this, it could mean, “How is the brand relevant in a pandemic-triggered world?”
Nail said Indeed is following this route and expects Fiverr to do the same in their ads. The former said his spot will highlight the path to finding work in a challenging market when people are in dire economic straits. Fiverr’s ad explains how small businesses need to turn their businesses digital to survive, and how Fiverr freelancers can help.
Gali Arnon, Fiverr’s chief marketing officer, said this was a “milestone” for the company.
“All over the world, freelancers [are] Joining our platform because of the situation, the pandemic and the high unemployment rate around the world, “she said.
Mercaris Spot shows a couple receiving two popcorn makers as gifts, then shows them listing one on Mercari, and then shows him in his new home. “Buy or sell almost anything online from home,” the voiceover read.
John Lagerling, US CEO of Mercari, told CNBC that the company will see a surge in business from the spring lockdowns.
“People wanted to turn unused things into cash, manage their finances,” he said. On the other hand, they wanted to “blow out or optimize” their rooms at home with used objects.
In a normal year, people might have turned to Craigslist or old fashioned flea markets to find or get rid of old items, but a lot of people have tried to limit contact. And Lagerling said Mercari was a way for them to do this.
And because of the pandemic, real roommates and a real couple were included in the ad instead of strangers pretending to live or be married together. The company worked with Rain the Growth Agency on the ad.
Another Super Bowl newbie, Vroom, went public in 2020 and said it saw strong growth as people chose to buy vehicles online rather than from a dealer. Although the company said it initially saw disruption to its e-commerce operations due to the pandemic, Consumer demand for used vehicles eventually returned to pre-Covid levels due to strong demand for e-commerce and contactless delivery.
“Particularly in the early stages of the pandemic, some people were physically unable to get to a dealer because some of them had to close for obvious reasons,” said Peter Scherr, Vroom’s chief marketing officer. “We were an interesting and a new and innovative alternative that really captured the moment for consumers.”
The spot is part of a campaign with the anomaly agency of MDC Partners. The campaign compares the company’s offers to the traditional process of going to a dealer.
“There’s really no bigger stage in the advertising world than the Super Bowl,” said Scherr. “We are happy to reach a mass audience.”
Companies that do well could plunge themselves into the minds of American consumers forever.
“Some of them are companies that have grown significantly during the pandemic and they want to capitalize on that momentum and use this great Super Bowl moment as a starting point to take to the next level of brand awareness,” said Lee Newman, CEO of the agency Interpublic Group MullenLowe US ”Traditionally, the Super Bowl has been a means of making that transition into a household name, and this year it won’t be any different.”
After a difficult year for the country, consumers may be watching more closely than ever to see whether they are insensitive or too cheerful. Many will likely be mistaken in showing how valuable they were and can be at this point in time, said Anjali Bal, a marketing professor at Babson College.
Topics include “this idea of togetherness, how we survive the pandemic, how technology helped us with the pandemic, those kinds of things,” she said.
For those skipping this year’s Super Bowl, that decision can be a PR experience as brands try to get attention even when they’re not in the game.
Coke said last month there will be no in-game ad “to make sure we are investing in the right resources in these unprecedented times,” and as it depends on the financial impact of the pandemic. Pepsi said it is replacing its traditional Super Bowl ad space with a new campaign to lead to its halftime show with The Weeknd. And Budweiser, who has not shown a Super Bowl ad in the game for the first time in 37 years, is focused on promoting vaccine awareness and sales efforts.
But PepsiCo sibling brands, including those in the Frito-Lay portfolio like Doritos and Cheetos, are still on the rise. Other Anheuser-Busch InBev brands such as Bud Light and Bud Light will also be offering Seltzer Lemonade Spots.
“I don’t think the headlines are as drastic as the real thing,” said Bill Wise, CEO of advertising software company Mediaocean. Budweiser, for example, is getting a lot of attention for not showing an ad, he said. Wise also said that it looks like Bud is increasing his pre-game ad spend, including on digital channels.
“They supplement this earned media with more paid media, only in other media types [outside] the Super Bowl, “he said.” One could argue that Budweiser is currently running an omni-channel campaign better than anyone. “