Budweiser will sit out Super Bowl, funneling marketing dollars to boost vaccine awareness

Budweiser's Super Bowl "Lost Dog" ad.Source: Budweiser

Budweiser will not be running a commercial during the Super Bowl for the first time in 37 years.

Instead, the Anheuser-Busch InBev beer is opting to support Covid-19 vaccine awareness and access with its marketing dollars.

As of Friday, roughly 39 million vaccines doses had been distributed and only 19.1 million administered, falling well short of the targets set by the federal government.

In the week leading up to the Super Bowl game, Budweiser plans to run its Super Bowl ad digitally. The spot focuses on resilient Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, including a group of health-care workers who were the first to receive the vaccine. Actress Rashida Jones, known for her roles in "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation," will narrate the spot.

The beer brand also plans to donate a percentage of its advertising airtime for 2021 to the Ad Council and Covid Collaborative's Vaccine Education Initiative. Budweiser will support its efforts with additional campaigns throughout the year.

The company also isn't entirely giving up promoting its beer. Budweiser is giving U.S. consumers who are at least 21 years old a free beer when they visit ABeerOnBud.com between Jan. 25 and Feb. 7. AB InBev's other brands, including Michelob Ultra, Bud Light and Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, will have in-game ads during the Super Bowl.

Budweiser isn't the only iconic brand sitting out the game. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have both said that they won't be running in-game ads for their namesake sodas. Pepsi is instead focusing on its sponsorship of the halftime show, which stars The Weeknd this year. PepsiCo's other brands, including Mtn Dew and Frito-Lay, are planning on airing commercials during the game.

In a statement to CNBC, Coke said that it has chosen to focus on "investing in the right resources." The pandemic has upended the beverage giant's business, as fewer drinks are consumed away from home, and its revenue fell 13% during the first nine months of 2020.

Last year's Super Bowl drew about 100 million viewers, but attracting those eyeballs comes with a hefty price tag for advertisers. A 30-second commercial during the football game will set companies back about $5.5 million this year, slightly less than 2020's rate of $5.6 million.

Shares of Budweiser parent AB InBev have fallen 14.5% in the last year, giving the company a market value of about $113 billion. While at-home consumption of beer is up due to the pandemic, the blow to bars and sports stadiums has resulted in a 6.8% revenue decline during the first nine months of 2020.

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