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Virginia Tech expert: Super Bowl ad giants taking pandemic seriously

Nneka Logan
Nneka Logan. Photo courtesy Virginia Tech.

Traditional big spenders on Super Bowl ads are sitting this one out, and letting stakeholders know that they take the pandemic seriously, according to Virginia Tech’s Nneka Logan.

“They want to stop the spread and are willing to put resources towards it. They’re putting their money where their mouth is,” said Logan, a professor in the School of Communication at Virginia Tech, who worked in a variety of communication roles for a multibillion-dollar corporate organization and its subsidiaries for more than nine years, managing internal, external and executive communication strategies, tactics, programs and projects.

Budweiser, Coke and Pepsi are among the brands refocusing their message in the age of COVID. In the case of Anheuser-Busch, which is donating its Budweiser ad spend to the Ad Council and to Covid Collaborative’ s Vaccine Education Initiative to increase vaccine awareness, they position the brand as a good corporate citizen, said Logan.

“I don’t think we can underestimate how important it is for brands to strike the right tone with their advertisements and corporate messaging right now. From the pandemic, to politics, to race relations, and all of the related issues that stem from those things, not to mention the regular, day-to-day stresses of life, it seems things are pretty uncertain and tense right now,” Logan said.  “At the same time, people want to laugh and forget their troubles. We probably need humor, now more than ever, but the trick for advertisers is to figure out how to be funny while things are so fragile.”

During the Super Bowl game, Anheuser-Busch will still run ads for other beverages in their portfolio of brands, such as Bud Light, Michelob ULTRA and more. Similarly, while PepsiCo is not advertising its signature cola during the big game, they will still have a strong presence through their sponsorship of the half time show.

“Coca-Cola recently had layoffs spurred by weak sales resulting from the pandemic. Reallocating dollars away from expensive ad spend may be great way to show employees that they care. Taking care of your people, your employees – especially during tough times – is one of the best ways for a company to demonstrate a genuine commitment to corporate social responsibility,” Logan said.

“For those brands that have a serious message to share, they have to take special care to communicate in a way that doesn’t heighten the audience’s anxiety or further dampen spirits. They have to figure out how to communicate in ways that drive home the seriousness of their messages, while helping people to feel empowered and hopeful. It’s a tough challenge for advertisers, but the creative ones will figure out how to strike the right tone.”

augusta free press
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