Frito-Lay, Pepsi, AB-InBev, Chipotle, E*Trade & Nickelodeon Executives Talk Super Bowl Plans

Presented by

Super Bowl LV is on Sunday and we'll be hosting our Upfronts event on Feb 4-5. We spoke to leaders from Frito-Lay, PepsiCo, AB InBev, Chipotle, Nickelodeon and E*Trade about their game day plans.

The Super Bowl is celebrating its 55th anniversary this year and brands are gearing up for the biggest advertising day of the year, in a year like no other.

Many perennial advertisers are investing their budgets in efforts to rebuild their communities, while new players are buying up the ViacomCBS inventory, which is already “virtually” sold out. Brand Innovators will be kicking off the festivities early with our Sports Marketing Upfronts and annual “Brands & Fans” Livecast event on February 4-5. The program will feature executives from leading brands sharing their strategies and plans for this year’s ads, and we caught up with a few of these thought leaders to get a taste of what is to come.

Brand Innovators is tracking all the ads, and we’ve spoken to a number of leading brand marketers, in advance of the big game.

“Our strategy this year is very simple: It’s going to be a Super Bowl like no other,” says Marissa Solis, SVP, Core Brands, Partnerships & Media, Frito Lay. “I think people will be looking for levity and a return to normalcy after the crazy year that we’ve had. Our brands are all about joy, we are all about creating smiles, that’s our mission. What you will see throughout our spots is a celebration of joy, smiles, and a ton of fun, which is something that people desperately need right now. A sense of normalcy always comes with laughter and a smile. We feel that message is so important, it’s really heightened our commitment to continuing to deliver great creative and great messaging.”

Frito Lay will be running three spots during the game - one for 3D Doritos, another for Cheetos’ popcorn crunch mix, as well as a third commercial that will run pregame and will feature NFL legends along with all of the products in the Frito-Lay portfolio. (Check out the teasers in our Super Bowl Ad Tracker).

“It is the biggest snacking day of the year, so it’s a very important time for us,” says Solis. “It was important for us not to change what we are about as a brand just because of everything going on in the world. We are going to bring what we’re about: smiles and joy.”

AB In-Bev is also taking a unique approach this year. The company’s flagship brand Budweiser will be sitting out the TV broadcast this year for the first time in 37 years.

The brand is reallocating its budget on a new brand platform focused on building awareness on vaccine education. The digital effort includes a new film called “Bigger Picture,” narrated by actress, writer and director Rashida Jones.

However, the company has bought several spots throughout the game for its portfolio of products including Bud Light, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, and Michelob ULTRA.

“This Super Bowl will be quite unique because of everything that has been going on, with the social separation, the lack of events and experiences,” says Paolo Provinciali, VP Media & Data, US at Anheuser-Busch InBev. “In past years, we have become very good at creating media experiences and making our brand become a part of the content and not just an interruption. We have become good at using the new digital platforms and strategies that people are spending more time with, and creating a full experience which includes ecommerce and loyalty, not just our brand message. What you can see is a combination of all these efforts.”

Ecommerce has become a much more prominent channel for the brand, as people are now buying beer along with groceries online. The company is promoting its brands online to help encourage consumers to stock up on beer for game day.

“We will activate from a linear standpoint during the game, but also from a digital standpoint, with different channels, different formats, from videos to memes to everything in the middle,” Provinciali adds. “The ultimate goal from a media standpoint is to create a connection with our audience and to create a human connection with the brand message and what people care for. The only way you can do that is by being present where your audience is spending time. The Super Bowl, nowadays, is not just about the game itself, and it’s not just about the linear media buy. It’s a full 360 approach, from linear to digital to all the different channels of engagement.”

Pepsi is also forgoing a TV spot during this year’s broadcast, instead focusing on their HalfTime Show sponsorship and promotions that encourage ordering food from local restaurants.

“We are approaching it like we always do in one way and then we are approaching it totally differently in another because of the COVID situation,” says Justin Toman, Head of Sports Marketing & Partnerships for PepsiCo. “We are approaching it the same in that we are excited and hopeful that this will again be essentially the single biggest marketing platform in sports entertainment in a one-shot deal. You just look at the scale and power that the platform of Super Bowl brings to a brand like Pepsi. There are some truly unique things we are able to do with the NFL, and the Pepsi Super Bowl halftime show and bringing consumers and fans one step closer to the show and letting them experience it in different ways. We are so excited and hopeful that we will do that again this year like we always strive to do.”

But on the other side of the coin, Pepsi had to take a completely different approach with regard to how the virus will impact on-site activation and hospitality. Adaptability is key for a company that has an 11-month planning cycle, working up to Super Bowl.

“It has been a massive pivot that we have approached in a few ways,” says Toman. “Science and safety, first and foremost and erring on the side of caution. And the second thing is that scenario planning has become the rule of the day, which is to always have a Plan B and C and D and E and build them realistically enough so that if you do indeed have to make some of these pivots. It is a fluid nature with daily updates and weekly updates with all of our partners. It is such a different world with COVID.”

While perennial Super Bowl advertisers Pepsi, Budweiser and even Coca-Cola will not be buying TV spots this year, many new players will be there for the first time. Chipotle, for instance, thought that this was the year for their big game debut.

“We thought it was a great opportunity to put our purpose front and center,” says Stephanie Perdue, VP of Marketing at Chipotle Mexican Grill. “What you see is Chipotle’s beliefs and values and you see it through a boy’s eyes who is posing the question, ‘Can a burrito change the world?’ and really highlighting our food with integrity standards that we have had since the beginning as a brand 27 years ago and imaging a world with those standards.”

The brand launched the spot two weeks ago to help build buzz. As part of the media buy, Chipotle has committed to give $5 million over the next five years to help support young farmers get their start.

In addition, on game day itself, one of the biggest days of the year, Chipotle will be donating $1 for every order to the non-profit National Young Farmers Coalition.

“When you think about those choices you make to shape the future, you think about the people that grow our food and where our food comes from and that is just a natural extension to think about the farming crisis here in the US where farmers tend to age out,” continued Perdue. “The average age of the farmer is 59. So when you are thinking about the future and where your food comes from, It is important to have young farmers that believe in those standards.”

E*TRADE was inspired by research that consumers are looking to take back control over their finances after a challenging year. The data revealed that 63% of investors feel that they could be doing better financially. This inspired the brand’s message for its Super Bowl ad.

“We wanted to highlight that desire to take back control, as we see a determined young man take his fitness journey into his own hands,” says Andrea Zaretsky, Managing Director and Chief Marketing Officer of E*TRADE Financial. “He is getting off the bench to bulk up, much like how E*TRADE is positioned to expertly help our customers get off the bench and back in the financial game.”

Given the impact of COVID-19 and the current landscape, it was important for the brand to evaluate their campaign through multiple lenses to ensure the message would connect with their audience. “Our brand has a rich history of using humor to share our message and connect with our customers, and this was the right time to channel our irreverent tone,” Zaretsky says. “We all need a laugh these days, but we also wanted to offer a sense of empowerment and encouragement as people take on their finances this year.”    

ViacomCBS brand Nickelodeon will also have a presence at the Super Bowl this year. The kids television network teamed up with CBS Sports this season to create educational content for kids to teach them about football. This culminated in a first-of-its-kind co-branded game broadcast during the NFL’s Wild Card game on Sunday January 10, which included slime-filled end zones.

“We had never had an opportunity to be involved in an NFL game before and to have an opportunity to bring the Nick brand into an actual game, when we first got the invite, I honestly didn’t know that we would be able to do what we pulled off,” says Michael Waldron, SVP Creative Director Art and Design at Nickelodeon. “To be able to put our Nick brand onto the NFL brand was such an incredible experience.”

Nickelodeon has continued to offer digital games and materials to help parents teach kids about football as they are stuck at home this year. “The way that we approached it spoke to how adaptable we can be,” says Ciji-Danielle Robinson, Senior Director of Growth Marketing at Viacom. “Normally we do a lot to speak to the audience on the ground. We took a look at the situation of the pandemic and we thought through a tactical strategy to really hone in in the digital space and provide engagement tools so that not only can they follow along but it is a moment that they can engage in with their families.”

While the media brand could not give away the surprise for Sunday’s big game, they will definitely be there. “Between the digital space, the social space and within the game itself, there you will definitely feel the love for Nickelodeon,” Robinson says.

To learn more about the Super Bowl ads, tune in to Brand Innovators Sports Marketing Upfronts slated for February 4th and 5th.

Interested in our events?


Stephanie Sherman Named CMO of DraftKings Ahead of Super Bowl

Read More

Airbnb Continues to Cope with Pandemic Challenges

Read More