AMES, Iowa -- A number of big companies that traditionally run ads in the Super Bowl are staying away from this year's game.
"In a normal year, if your ad doesn't do well--sure you get hit a little bit, but it's not that bad. This year, the chance that you will have any upside are pretty low," says Iowa State University Marketing Professor Sekar Raju.
He says brands like Coke, Pepsi, and Budweiser don't want to run the risk of putting a bad ad in the most-watched TV event of the year--during the COVID-19 pandemic that's killed 443,000 people.
Raju also says companies that aren't running ads in this year's Super Bowl are getting the much same publicity--for free.
"By staying out, they're actually getting what that would have gotten by running an ad--and that's the positive news coverage that they're getting now," he says.
Raju says while big brands aren't running Super Bowl ads, some of their parent companies' smaller brands are running ads.
"I think they're playing a game where they're getting the best of both worlds. They're taking the big brand off the table. If there is any blow-back, it's limited to the smaller brands," he says.
For example, PepsiCo isn't running Super Bowl ads for Pepsi, but is for and Doritos and Tostitos. Anheuser-Busch isn't running ads for Budweiser, but is for Bud Light Selzer and Michelob Ultra Light.
A 30-second ad in this year's Super Bowl game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers costs $5.5 million.