One of the most eagerly anticipated Super Bowl ads every year will be on the sidelines this year, with Anheuser-Busch choosing not to feature the iconic Clydesdales and cute story lines that have been a hallmark of its Budweiser spots.

Instead, for the first time since 1983, the company will not advertise the brand during Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 because of the coronavirus pandemic, it announced Monday, saying it will be “reallocating the media investment” to partner with the Ad Council and COVID Cooperative’s COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative in raising awareness.

Anheuser-Busch isn’t alone in changing its approach. Pepsi, which will get more return on its investment by sponsoring the halftime show, will advertise Mountain Dew and Frito-Lay products, and companies like Coca-Cola, Audi and Avocados from Mexico will skip the game, too.

“Like everyone else, we are eager to get people back together, reopen restaurants and bars, and be able to gather to cheer with friends and family,” Monica Rustgi, Budweiser’s vice president of marketing, said in a statement. “To do this, and to bring consumers back into neighborhood bars and restaurants that were hit exceptionally hard by the pandemic, we’re stepping in to support critical awareness of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Budweiser has a marketing plan for its decision, with a 90-second ad called “Bigger Picture” that will run on its digital platforms before and during the Super Bowl. Actress and director Rashida Jones narrates the ad, which features the response to the events of 2020 – from the Black Lives Matter movement to the pandemic – and ends with health care workers being vaccinated.

Over the years, Budweiser ads have been memorable for tugging at the heartstrings and tickling the funny bone with frogs and “Whassup,” among other offerings. Anheuser-Busch has retained four minutes of advertising during the game for other products that skew to younger consumers, like Bud Light Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, Michelob Ultra and Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer.

Although some regulars like M&Ms and Toyota will be back, many advertisers have decided not to spend the reported $5.5 million CBS was asking for a 30-second spot. For instance, Coca-Cola announced layoffs in December, partly because, according to the Associated Press, half of its sales are from stadiums, movie theaters and public spots closed during the pandemic.


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