How Budweiser skipping the Super Bowl brought public and media interest to vaccination awareness

February 2, 2021

Written by Benedict Nicholson
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Usually a Super Bowl ad is thought of as being the golden ticket to getting attention to your brand. After all, that’s why they cost so much money. 

But what if that’s not the case in 2021? 

We have a useful test case here in Budweiser, a legacy brand that has been a perennial Super Bowl advertiser since 1983, when parent company Anheuser-Busch spent all of its allotted time introducing Bud Light. 

This year, however, the iconic beverage company is devoting none of its time to its Budweiser brand, instead funneling the dollars it would have spent on the Super Bowl commercial into raising awareness of the Covid-19 vaccine and debunking anti-vaxxer myths in the process. 

This has turned out to be a hugely successful move in terms of capturing the public interest. 

Let’s take a look at the details.

Comparative view of public and media interest in Budweiser Super Bowl ads

Using our new compare feature, we looked at the attention generated by Budweiser’s Super Bowl commercials between January and February for each of the last four years, encompassing 2018 through 2021. Interested NewsWhip users can access the dashboard that we used here.

Screenshot showing the relative performance of Budweiser's Super Bowl ads in the last four years

Today is only the beginning of February, so the 2021 numbers only run through the end of January at this stage.

Even with that caveat, the view that forms is remarkable. Budweiser’s Super Bowl actions this year, in consciously choosing to skip the game and spend the money somewhere else, have brought the brand (and the cause it is promoting) far more earned media attention and public interest than any of the three other years we looked at combined. 

So far there have been more than a thousand articles about Budweiser’s decision not to advertise for its main brand this year, with more than a million engagements to those articles. The highest number of articles written about the beer brand’s commercial in any other year was 434 in 2018, and the maximum number of engagements received was 377k in 2019 for its ad featuring Clydesdales and Bob Dylan.

The attention received has the added bonus of bringing additional awareness to the cause that Budweiser is moving its money to promote. The company has taken a stand on making sure vaccination is a priority, and understood as broadly as possible, and the additional attention from the media coverage in mainstream outlets does nothing to outshine Covid vaccine awareness.

The top stories, ranked by engagement, about Budweiser's decision not to run a Super Bowl ad in 2021

While some of the articles’ headlines focused only on Budweiser passing on a Super Bowl ad, many of them did reference the fact that the brand  would be funding a vaccine education campaign, some of which received tens of thousands of engagements, which is a significant level of public interest. The most engaged article, which came from ABC News, prominently included the reasoning behind Budweiser’s decision in the body of the article, even though it was not in the headline itself.

It remains to be seen how much of a splash the brands who do choose to do a traditional Super Bowl ad make with their content, but Budweiser has certainly set down an early marker in choosing not to participate this year, alongside the likes of Coke and Pepsi. 

If you’d like to monitor the levels of public and media interest in your brand, check out the NewsWhip product suite.

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