Overview of Super Bowl 2021 Car Commercials

January 1, 2021

Key Takeaways

Super Bowl Commercials — Car Brands Used to Dominate Advertising Air Time: For eleven consecutive years car brands owned the biggest share of Super Bowl advertising time, running as many as 11 different commercials in 2018. In 2020, car brands spent approximately $77M to air their commercials during the Big Game Night, which was 60% more than their combined digital ads spend ($48M) for the whole year. In 2021 there were only 5 car commercials that aired during the Super Bowl Night — the lowest number in the recent years. 

Budget Focus  — Consider Long-Term Objectives when Making Budget Decisions: There were three main reasons why many auto brands decided to sit out Super Bowl 2021:

  1. Industry decline. In 2020, auto sales in the US declined by 16% — this is the biggest dip the industry has seen since the financial crisis of 2008.
  2. Marketing budget cuts. Auto brands re-invested their marketing budgets in other business activities in order to meet their KPIs.
  3. PR coverage. Several auto manufacturers re-engineered their production facilities to make medical ventilators and PPE. This shift has generated a substantial amount of publicity for such companies as Ford and General Motors.

Messaging focus — Remain Relevant: The four of five car brands that decided to go ahead and air their commercials during the Super Bowl Night addressed social and environmental concerns in their ads. Only Cadillac showcased a new car in their Super Bowl 2021 commercial. 

Super Bowl Commercials — Digital Brand Invests in TV ad: Vroom, a pre-owned online car marketplace, has seen a three-digit traffic growth to their website in 2020. The brand decided to get their message in from of 5.7M Super Bowl viewers and pioneered their first commercial in 2021. Vroom exaggerated the inconveniences of going to a traditional car dealership in their ad and showcased how convenient and easy it is to buy a car online — a trend that has been getting significant consideration in 2020.

For eleven consecutive years (2009 – 2020), Auto brands had the largest share of advertising time for the Super Bowl.

Source: Super Bowl LIV - The Numbers – Kantar 

In 2020 automotive brands spent $77M on Super Bowl commercials, which is 60% more than their combined annual digital advertising spend.

Source: Super Bowl LIV - The Numbers – Kantar 

In 2021, only five car brands aired commercials during the Super Bowl and the total amount of Super Bowl ad spend for the automotive industry decreased by -15%.

Super Bowl Budget
Source: Top Super Bowl Commercials
Source: How much does a Super Bowl Ad cost. Here is how 2021 compares.

Three main reasons why auto brands decided to sit out on the 2021 Super Bowl:

1. Auto Sales Decline

In 2020, auto sales in the US declined by -16% and have been the lowest since the financial crisis of 2008.

Source: Us Auto Industry Analysis

2. Marketing Budget Cuts

The Automotive category cut their marketing budgets — digital advertising spend in the US declined by -18% YoY.

Source: Automotive industry digital advertising spending.

3. PR from Other Activities

At the beginning of 2020, several car producers re-factored their production plants to manufacture masks and medical equipment—this shift gained wide media coverage.

Automotive brands that decided to invest in Super Bowl 2021 commercials used their airtime to address social and environmental issues rather than promote new cars.

Ford: COVID-19 social distancing and precautions

Toyota: Olympics that won’t happen

Jeep: US political divide

Hummer: Shift to electric vehicles

Cadillac was the only auto brand that presented a new car in their Super Bowl 2021 commercial.Car featured. All-electric Cadillac LYRIQ with hands-free super cruise.

Vroom, an online pre-owned car buying website that has seen a +104% web traffic growth in 2020, pioneered its first Super Bowl ad in 2021. 

Vroom’s commercial hyperbolized the inconveniences of visiting a car dealership center and showcased the ease of buying a used car online.

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