After conducting a transcription analysis of Super Bowl commercials mentioning Covid-19 and other related terms, we were surprised that a much smaller percentage of brand advertisements referenced Covid-19 than we expected. Very few ads mentioned Covid-19 directly by mentioning terms such as “Covid,” “masks,” and “vaccine” as we discussed in our post here. Alternatively, some advertisers chose to take a subtle approach to incorporating Covid-19 into their ads. While conducting a new search for “unprecedented times”, “sacrifice” “change” and more, we found certain ads that decided to use the effects of Covid-19 as an overall theme this year across national and local markets in the Super Bowl.

Our data returned the following statistics: 19 ad airings nationally and locally subtly referenced Covid-19, accounting for 3% of all ad airings during the Super Bowl that alluded to Covid-19, nationally and locally. This does not include advertisements that simply showed people wearing masks to reflect the changes Covid-19 has created in our day to day lives.

There were 13 advertisers that subtly referenced the pandemic. A pattern formed where 3% of all advertisers fell into this category, while 2% of unique creatives occurring across 17 local markets subtly referenced the pandemic. These ads ran from Missoula, MT, to Scranton, PA. Advertisers varied, from Microsoft promoting their virtual work platform, to healthcare groups expressing their support for their communities.

Overall, these ads fell into two separate categories and followed two themes. Specific brand advertisements tried to add some inspiration or humor to the current situation, and try to change our mindset on the way we view the effects of the pandemic. This ad from Anheuser Busch, promoting their new Bud Light Lemonade Seltzers, offered the view that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade and 2020 was “a lemon of a year”.

Others such as a brief 10 second spot from CBS featuring The Late Show host Stephen Colbert, encourages viewers to support local businesses in their community.

Creatives from different healthcare groups included this one from BlueCross BlueShield, expressed a theme of being there for each other for the duration of the pandemic and acknowledging some good moments that have emerged in the last year.

Altogether, the presence of Covid-19, whether direct or indirect, in the biggest TV advertising event of the year were surprisingly lower than was expected. But this shows the temperature of the advertising world and advertisers’ outlook on returning to a sense of normalcy post-pandemic.