olay super bowl

It seems that we are now in an era of women’s empowerment and awareness.

Headshot of Sheeva Banton

By Sheeva Banton

49 mins ago

Super Bowl ad-buying season got off to a slow start due to pandemic-related uncertainty regarding game schedule as well as public mood. Buys recently accelerated as brands realized that the sports-viewing audience is still highly active. After deciding to go all-in on the Super Bowl despite the initial hesitancy, there are still momentous decisions brands must face, specifically around creative messaging. 

Last year, we saw the tide shift: most tone-deaf and sexist ads began to disappear from the Super Bowl lineup, replaced by those that put women in a more honorable position—such as Olay’s space-themed, all-female ad replicating 2019’s women-only spacewalk. The shift we saw wasn’t necessarily these brands taking a stand for gender equality. They were simply being pragmatic, realizing that women are their main customers and they should start putting them in leading roles in their ads.

Super Bowl marketers: don’t forget women

Nearly half of Super Bowl viewers are women, and that number is only increasing now that we are watching football from the couch versus the stadium. Consider the halftime show last year; the internet was ablaze with women admiring the strength and agility of Jennifer Lopez and Shakira at 40+. This year’s halftime performer is The Weeknd, who is reportedly more popular among women than men

It seems that we are now in an era of women’s empowerment and awareness, more than that of objectification. If you objectify women in your ads, you risk alienating a significant number of viewers. And buyers, too. Women are estimated to control as much as 85% of household spending decisions. They are the Chief Household Officer, deciding which toothpaste and cleaning brands to buy. They’re also in control of higher ticket items, like expensive technology products and new cars.


Among the brands that have committed to the Super Bowl are Mars Wrigley/M&Ms, WeatherTech, TurboTax, Mountain Dew and Toyota. This year, I wonder if we’ll notice whether or not Super Bowl ads are gender-inclusive, or if they show racial diversity—another issue that has heightened awareness and consideration due to the events of 2020. 

How are brands going to meet people where they are on Feb. 7, 2021? Given how quickly our environments change, from health to politics, there is no sure way of knowing what will be in and on our minds that day.  We’ll likely be online ordering food, clothing, electronics and even alcohol. Will Drizly make an appearance? Perhaps Walmart and Comcast’s collaborative new TV will get some air time. With people working more on crafts and home organization, it wouldn’t surprise me if Home Depot or The Container Store aired a spot.

Making up for lost sales

Seeing that Frito-Lay has committed to three ads for its snack brands, it’s also clear that many companies are going to try to make up for lost sales from 2020. Parent company PepsiCo’s top line, for instance, suffered massively from restaurant and stadium closures, so it needs to boost revenues for its snacks and packaged foods, hence the focus on Doritos 3D Crunch (back from the 90s) and the new Cheetos Crunch Pop Mix. When you’re stuck at home, the most exciting part of your day might be a new snack.

This is also a time where brands in the truly hard-hit verticals will need to decide how much they are going to err on the side of optimism. Will we see airlines promoting new policies like no-change-fees? U.S. auto ad spend hit a 30-year low, falling 18% in 2020. Will automakers say enough is enough—let’s advertise now to get rid of last year’s models and promote 2021?