LAS VEGAS--Fans can expect celebrities and more lighthearted commercials, along with glimpses of Taylor Swift, during the Super Bowl on Sunday, as corporate advertisers avoid the recent practice of using the big game to promote social causes.
While high-priced Super Bowl commercials often play for laughs in trying to make an impression, the flashy productions can also reflect the national mood. Brands that previously took stands on issues such as diversity and climate change, are acknowledging that anything seen as political while attempting to market products to all consumers can be “treacherous to navigate,” said Kim Whitler, a professor at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and a former marketing executive at Procter & Gamble. "The pendulum swings. First, it was 'we don't do enough,' and now it's swinging back," she said. Budweiser in 2017 used the Super Bowl to depict Anheuser-Busch's founder making the journey from Germany to America in 1857, encountering xenophobia and discrimination along the way. This year, it will bring back the iconic Clydesdale horses to its Super Bowl commercial, while related brands like Michelob Ultra will have a lighthearted ad featuring soccer superstar Lionel Messi. For brands that want to appeal to a younger demographic during the NFL championship clash between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, the romance between Swift and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, which has dominated social media, could provide inspiration, said Charles R. Taylor, professor of marketing at Villanova University School of Business. Despite some griping over attention paid to Swift during games she has attended this season, the pop megastar's appeal has benefited the league and could do the same for brands shelling out millions for a Super Bowl commercial, Taylor said. The price of a 30-second spot on CBS sold for around $7 million, according to a source familiar with the ad sales, about the same as last year. “It's definitely been good for the NFL. (Swift has) flat out increased viewership,” Taylor said. One trend emerging in commercials and teaser videos released before the game is ensemble celebrity casts. Bud Light will introduce the Bud Light Genie, who grants a group of friends wishes that turn a night watching football into a jam-packed adventure. With the genie's help, the friends magically appear at rapper Post Malone’s concert, then at an Ultimate Fighting Championship match with UFC President Dana White, and become best friends with Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.