Super Bowl advertising campaigns are often as fierce and competitive as any of the action on the gridiron. However, while 2014 saw a record 11 auto makers spend in record numbers to purchase Super Bowl commercial slots, this year is different – many big-name companies are passing on Sunday's big show.
Several auto makers are focusing their attention elsewhere instead of paying $4.5 million for a 30-second slot – despite rising vehicle sales and the fact that many are enjoying their best year since 2006.
General Motors is the official car of the NFL and awards the Super Bowl MVP a Chevrolet Colorado, but it will not run an ad. GMC brands Buick, Cadillac and Chevrolet won't, either.
Volvo will be giving away five XC60 crossovers during the game instead of buying an ad. It will decide who gets the cars based on Twitter nominations. "Whenever any car commercial airs throughout the big game, people can tweet with the hashtag #VolvoContest to tell Volvo who they think deserves a brand new Volvo XC60," reads a statement.
Other auto makers not taking part include Ford, Lincoln, Honda, Acura, Infiniti, Jaguar-Land Rover and Mazda, according to The Detroit News.
Volkswagen may be the biggest absentee surprise. Its Super Bowl ads – such as the Darth Vader kid – have been some of the most memorable in recent history. Hyundai, another big spender, has also pulled out.
"We have opted not to participate due to other priorities and initiatives across all platforms," Volkswagen said in a statement to The Detroit News. "We hope to rejoin the Super Bowl when we feel it is appropriate for our brand."
Brands confirmed to be taking part in the big show include BMW, Kia, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Toyota. Chrysler announced late Thursday they will air three commercials during the game. They will be the only one of the big three to buy a spot.
For those involved, the race is on to tease the ad campaign. Mercedes-Benz debuted its 30-second ad on The Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this week, which shows how a tortoise can beat a hare in a race. (Spoiler alert: the tortoise gets in a Mercedes-Benz AMG GT). The commercial starts at the 1:30-mark of this video.
BMW unveiled its electric i3 commercial on NBC's Today show. Toyota is releasing longer cuts on YouTube of a campaign where NFL players recount their relationships with the fathers. Toyota is encouraging viewers to tweet photos with their dads.
And Kia is channelling its inner 007 with a funny 72-second slot featuring actor Pierce Brosnan, who is being pitched on a new role. He thinks it will be for an action film, but it is just an average getaway to a mountain chalet. Being James Bond, he still gets the girl despite not killing anyone during the drive.
Three auto makers – Chrysler, Hyundai and Volkswagen – are among the top five Super Bowl advertisers over the past five years, with Volkswagen and Hyundai spending nearly $70 million each. In the past 10 years, auto makers have made up almost a quarter of the big game's ad spending, accounting for $514.6 million. The companies spent a total of $331 million last year alone.
The big problem with Super Bowl ads is that Canadians can't watch them because networks such as CTV buy the rights to air the game and sell their own ads in place of the American ones. That is going to change for the Super Bowl in two years, but until then all of the ads will likely be posted online shortly after they air on TV in the United States.
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