This year’s Super Bowl advertisements may feel a bit tamer than usual, and there’s a good reason behind it. Advertisers, who typically shell out around $7 million for just 30 seconds of airtime during the big game, are keen on avoiding the fate that befell Bud Light last year.
In 2023, a marketing campaign by Bud Light featuring a transgender influencer stirred significant backlash, leading to a decline in sales for the beer brand. Even now, Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, reports a 13.5% drop in sales in the US, largely attributed to Bud Light’s decline.
The cautionary tale of Bud Light has not gone unnoticed by other brands. However, despite efforts to play it safe, at least one ad has already sparked controversy. Food allergy advocates are calling out Uber Eats for its Super Bowl commercial, which includes a joke about peanut allergies.
The commercial, part of a star-studded campaign, revolves around the concept of customers having to forget something to remember Uber Eats’ offerings. In one scene, a man eating peanut butter forgets about his allergy and experiences a serious allergic reaction. Advocacy groups argue that such jokes trivialize a potentially life-threatening condition and reinforce harmful attitudes.
Both Food Allergy Canada and Food Allergy Research & Education have condemned the commercial, urging Uber Eats to edit or refrain from airing it altogether. Despite the outcry, Uber has yet to respond to the controversy.
The backdrop of this cautious advertising approach stems from Bud Light’s experience last year. Following a conservative backlash to a campaign featuring a transgender influencer, Bud Light lost its status as the best-selling beer in the US. The fallout from Bud Light’s misstep has left a lasting impact on the industry.
Marketing experts note that brands are now steering clear of controversial topics and pushing the boundaries of humor. Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University, observes a marked shift towards safer advertising strategies, with brands avoiding anything remotely controversial.
As Super Bowl advertisers tread carefully to sidestep the Bud Light debacle, the emphasis this year seems to be on playing it safe rather than pushing the envelope.