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The Budweiser clydesdales were a no show to Super Bowl 55

But lots of new players filled the spots. Some more memorable than others, like Reddit, Bass Pro Shops, and Indeed.

Given the pandemic, I was curious about Super Bowl 2021 advertising trends for this odd ball of a year. Prior to the big event there was much commentary about how the ad market was different this year:

There are a million ways to look at this - but I was mainly interested in understanding how 2021 was different from prior years. The Super Bowl is an expensive day. Was the investment worth it for any new advertisers that showed up?

  • Did more new advertisers show up?

  • How were the new advertisers different?

  • What spots stood out amongst the crowd?

New Advertisers

Prior to the 2021 Super bowl, there were 19 advertisers that had been on a 5 year streak. I was curious to see who decided to pocket their millions… or more likely shift that budget to a different time/channel.

Here’s how it shook out:

  • 19 advertisers on a 5 year run

  • 7 “dropped out” = 1 travel, 3 food + drink, 2 car, 1 entertainment

    • Caveat? Pepsi still advertised in the Super Bowl - just not an ad. They sponsored the Weeknd’s Halftime show. I’m keeping them out on a technicality.

Notes about the “6 year club”?

  • Paramount ran 10 ads but paid for none due to CBS relationship

  • Only 4 of the 11 increased their ad budget, the others took decent cuts

So what did this lead to?

  • 28 new brands for 2021

  • These brands represented nearly 37% of the total ad revenue which is 12 pt jump over 2020 - that’s significant.

You might be wondering, is this an anomaly? The answer is no. I looked at the prior 3 years of data to see how many new advertisers there were and what percent they represented of all ad revenue.

Industry Breakdown

With such an increase in new brands as well as a very interesting psychographic year, I wanted to try and understand how the brand mix might have shifted. In other words, did it make sense that Turkish Airlines didn’t show up to the party?

Based on the current state of the world, it makes sense that Turkish Airlines didn’t advertise. People are home more and new business creation is up +20% over prior years. The other leading category brands hit on current pandemic logic and trends.

  • Indeed → help people get jobs

  • Klarna → shop now, pay later for ecommerce

  • Scott’s Lawn → more time at home

  • Microban → stay safe in your environment

  • Doordash + Uber Eats → get food delivered to your home

  • Chipotle + Jimmy Johns → quick service, not sit down

Notable ads?

I think the majority of the media and audience focuses on memorable or funny or cute - but thanks to the data we can look a little deeper.

  • The Breakthrough score measures an ad's ability to stand out from the clutter and is an average of our Attention and Likeability scores. The norm is 661 and reflects all Super Bowl ads since 2016. 3% above or below the norm is statistically significant.

  • The Emotional reaction is derived from viewer verbatim comments. The top emotion represents the reaction with the strongest signal and is at minimum stronger than 75% of all ads for that specific emotion.

Not worth the ad spend?

Probably not a good thing for an ad to be labeled dishonest or inappropriate. Robinhood has spent a lot of time in the news recently due to the GameStop short squeeze, so perhaps there could have been some influence due to that press.

Good bang for the buck

As a caveat, iSpot only reports on nationally broadcasted ads which excludes the popular 5 second Reddit spot. From a national perspective, it is a home run to provide viewers and potential customers soothing, inspiring and memorable experiences.


Are these problems that you are trying to solve for your business? Or maybe you just like to talk about eCommerce and digital strategies? Let’s talk.

This post can also be found on my Substack.

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