• Market Crumbs

Prominent Brands Pass On This Year's Super Bowl

Image via Anheuser-Busch

This year's Super Bowl was long destined to be a far cry from the usual spectacle as a result of the pandemic. Super Bowl LV, which will be held at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium, will see only 22,000 fans witness the game in person compared to a stadium capacity of 65,000.

The NFL saw regular season ratings decline as TV viewership dropped by about 10% this season compared to 2019, ending consecutive years of audience growth. The ratings decline has so far dragged into the playoffs as well, as the first eight playoff games all saw ratings declines compared to last season.

With the NFL's ratings declines likely to spill into Super Bowl LV, a handful of companies that are regularly big spenders on ads have decided to opt out of advertising for this year's game, albeit not entirely in some instances.

Pepsi announced earlier this month it wouldn't advertise its namesake brand, Pepsi, so it could focus on the halftime show it's sponsoring. Pepsi's vice president of marketing, Todd Kaplan, said the decision to skip ads in favor of the half time show was not driven by spending cuts.

Kaplan said other Super Bowl advertisers are "talking and fighting for 30 seconds" of people's attention while he cited data showing the halftime show is responsible for some of the most-watched moments during the telecast.

Pepsi, which spent more than $31 million advertising during last year's Super Bowl, will still run ads for its other brands such as Mountain Dew and Frito-Lay products.

Pepsi's competitor, The Coca-Cola Company, also followed suit and said it made the "difficult choice" to not run ads so it could "ensure we are investing in the right resources during these unprecedented times." Coca-Cola, which spent $10 million on Super Bowl ads last year, announced last month that it was laying off 17% of its global workforce.

This week Anheuser-Busch announced it wouldn't run an ad for its Budweiser brand for the first time since 1983. The company will instead donate what it would have spent on an ad—which is currently $5.5 million for 30 seconds compared to $5.6 million last year, to coronavirus vaccination awareness efforts.

The company will instead run four minutes worth of ads for its other brands that are becoming increasingly popular such as Bud Light, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, Michelob Ultra and Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer.

Beyond the ratings decline, some believe advertisers just don't see the value in running ads this year given the overall mood among people.

"I think the advertisers are correctly picking up on this being a riskier year for the Super Bowl," Villanova University marketing professor Charles Taylor said. "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."

As more well-known brands drop out of advertising for the big game, newcomers such as Triller, Fiverr, DoorDash, Mercari and Huggies are all making their Super Bowl ad debuts.

With everything from ratings, the economy and the pandemic weighing on the Super Bowl, some advertisers are reevaluating the cost of spending millions on a Super Bowl ad while others are embracing the opportunity.

Leftover Crumbs

  • Merck ends Covid-19 vaccine development. Merck announced it is discontinuing development of its Covid-19 vaccine candidates and will instead focus on the advancing two of its therapeutic candidates. Merck will record a charge in the fourth quarter as a result of discontinuing the candidates. "In these studies, both V590 and V591 were generally well tolerated, but the immune responses were inferior to those seen following natural infection and those reported for other SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccines," Merck said.

  • Waymo CEO and Elon Musk spat. Waymo CEO John Krafcik said Tesla's self-driving system isn't the right approach to building a fully autonomous vehicle, while also adding Tesla isn't a competitor of Waymo. "For us, Tesla is not a competitor at all," Krafcik said. "We manufacture a completely autonomous driving system. Tesla is an automaker that is developing a really good driver assistance system." Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk replied "To my surprise, Tesla has better AI hardware & software than Waymo (money)."

  • Goldman Sachs warns 39 stocks are in a bubble. Goldman Sachs has warned a basket of 39 stocks are trading in bubble territory given their valuations. Some of the notable companies that are popular among investors include Snowflake, Zoom, DataDog, Shopify, DocuSign and Palantir. "One part of the market that appears frothy and may pose a broader risk is extremely high growth, high multiple stocks," Goldman Sachs U.S. equity chief David Kostin said. "Since 1985, the median stock trading at an enterprise value-to-sales multiple above 20 times has garnered a subsequent 12-month return of -1%, compared with 6% for the median U.S. stock."

  • Google to help with vaccine efforts. Google announced a handful of initiatives to help with the distribution of Covid-19 vaccinations. Google is committing $150 million to promote vaccine education and equitable distribution, highlighting vaccination sites on Search and Maps, and partnering with One Medical to turn Google facilities into vaccination sites. "We recognize that getting vaccines to people is a complex problem to solve, and we're committed to doing our part," Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a post.

  • Space companies attract record investment in 2020. According to a report by Space Capital, private investment in space companies hit a record $8.9 billion in 2020. "With another $2.9 billion invested in Q4, 2020 was a record year for [space infrastructure companies] with $8.9 billion invested," Space Capital managing partner Chad Anderson wrote. "Despite expectations that Infrastructure would be hardest hit by the pandemic, 2020 turned out to be a record for investment."