Super Bowl LV: Covid-19 Data Trends in Ads


Super Bowl LIV in 2020 very narrowly missed the onset of Covid-19 in the United States. The game on February 2nd, 2020, seemed like one of the last prominent events that went on uninterrupted by the pandemic, and saw no mentions of Covid-19 in advertisements. Expectations for this years Super Bowl were a high amount of ads focusing on Covid-19 data trends, vaccinations, masks and the changes and impact the virus has had on our lives for the past 11 months. We will break down the details of these Covid-19 data trends and their effect on advertising on the Big Game on a national and local level.

Unexpected Covid-19 Advertising Data Trends

While the effects of Covid-19 may have been present in many ads, with actors wearing masks, or inspiring portrayals of healthcare workers and first responders, we found that very few ads addressed Covid-19 directly. Through a transcription search of ads mentioning Covid-19 specific phrases such as “masks” “vaccine” and “unprecedented times” and more, our data returned only 28 different ads mentioning these terms in their advertisement. These specific ads were mostly from companies ensuring customers that they are taking the necessary precautions against the virus, or official government agencies such as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment running this informative ad on the Covid-19 vaccine. Similar ads aired in 11 different local markets, ranging from Honolulu HI, to Jackson TN.

As different industries try to rebound from the effects of the pandemic on their business, Alaska Airlines took the Super Bowl as an opportunity to encourage people to travel. The airline ran this minute long ad, in the San Diego and San Francisco-Oakland markets, emphasizing that their flights are safe with new air filtration devices and only passengers who wear a mask will be allowed onboard. Interestingly, Alaska Airlines and Allegiant airlines were the only travel related advertisements to air during the game and across only three markets.

A Different Covid-19 Data Trend Approach

Some better known advertisers took a more implied and subtle approach to their advertising around Covid-19. Ford ran this ad entitled “Hold the Line” depicting emotional scenes of healthcare workers, families in masks, vaccine production, weddings and graduation ceremonies. Ford used phrases such as “living” “sacrifice” and “touching” to obviously invoke Covid-19 and an attempt to encourage people to continue social distancing and wearing masks without explicitly mentioning any of this.

Ford’s ad falls in line with other larger corporations we normally see during the Super Bowl, opting to not promote their own brand or product, but spread awareness about Covid-19 or sit out of advertising in the Super Bowl entirely and plan to allocate the money they would have spent on their advertising spot, directly to Covid-19 relief. Ultimately, the presence of Covid-19 in Super Bowl ads this year was felt, but not explicitly mentioned on the large scale that many had anticipated.

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