Last year, advertisers spent a record-breaking $435 million on Super Bowl ads, according to Kantar Media. This year probably won’t break any records, however, now that Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Hyundai have decided to pass.

Coca-Cola among brands passing on Super Bowl ads
“Mean” Joe Greene drank more than 18 Cokes while making this iconic 1980 Super Bowl ad, known as “Hey Kid, Catch!” (Image: Coca-Cola)

A number of factors contributed to last year’s record Super Bowl ad spend. The NFL’s regular-season ratings were on the upswing. The economy was healthy. A large number of presidential candidates, including billionaire Mike Bloomberg, put political ad spending in play. And the global pandemic was barely visible on the horizon.

Uncertainty Curbs Super Bowl Ad Budgets

Last year, one of the only uncertainties was where Tom Brady would land. In fact, the streaming service Hulu based their Super Bowl 54 commercial on that mystery. This year, we know where Brady is headed — taking the Tampa Bay Bucs into the NFC title game. Everything else, however, is less certain.

Back in 1967, a 30-second Super Bowl ad would run a company between $37,500 and $42,500, according to Nielson Media Research. This year, that same spot is going for roughly $5.5 million. And that’s just for the time slot; it doesn’t include production costs.

Even with people stuck at home due to the virus, 2020’s NFL TV ratings were 7% lower than last season. Needless to say, there will be fewer Super Bowl 55 viewing parties than in years prior. Meanwhile, companies are tightening their belts in what, for most, has been a difficult year.

Coca-Cola is known for its iconic Super Bowl commercials. In the ’70s, its famous “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” was so popular, it became a hit song and was later featured in the finale of the television series “Mad Men.” Coke’s “Hey Kid, Catch!” with “Mean” Joe Greene is still one of the best (and best-known) Super Bowl ads, 40 years after it first aired. But, Coca-Cola won’t be upchucking bucks for Super Bowl 55. Maybe Coke thought twice about its ad budget after announcing a 17% cut to its workforce. And Coke isn’t the only one missing the big game.

Hyundai and Avocado: 2021 No-Shows

Pepsi is contractually stuck sponsoring Super Bowl 55’s halftime show, but earlier this month, the soft-drink maker announced it won’t be running a separate, in-game commercial.

Last year, Hyundai hit one out of the “pahk” with its ad, replete with Boston accents and a David Ortiz cameo. This year, the Korean car manufacturer is passing on the Super Bowl. The hummus company Sabra was rewarded for its RuPaul-themed Super Bowl ad last year. But, Sabra decided not to risk it this year. Previous advertisers, Avocados from Mexico and SodaStream are also Super Bowl 55 no-shows.

It’s not uncommon for the Super Bowl to sell out of ad slots by Thanksgiving, but this year has been anything but common. While you can count on seeing ads from Pringles, Toyota, and Anheuser-Busch, you probably can’t count on breaking another Super Bowl ad record.

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