Off Brand

What This Year’s Super Bowl Ads Reveal About Our Wacky Economy

DoorDash, Triller, and Robinhood are taking the field, while Budweiser and Pepsi sit it out

Rob Walker
Published in
7 min readFeb 2, 2021


Logos of Fiverr, Coca-Cola, Doordash, Pepsi, Triller, and Budweiser as O’s and X’s on a football play
Illustration by Julia Moburg for Marker

Super Bowl LV, coming this Sunday evening in Tampa, Florida, is going to be weird. Partly that’s just because everything has been weird for months, including sports events that are now an uncanny mix of fake crowd noise and cardboard-cutout fans, with players sidelined and schedules rejiggered by Covid infections. It’s particularly hard to imagine how this ultimate spectacle of togetherness — not just in a crowded stadium but in many thousands of crowded living rooms — will translate to this endless and isolated Covid-19 winter.

All of which is making things complicated for the real stars of Super Bowl Sunday: the advertisers.

This is probably the riskiest Super Bowl for advertisers since the 2002 contest, played just months after 9/11. Once again, there’s the matter of getting the tone right in a troubling moment that viewers simultaneously seek to treat with respect and as an escape from our grave reality for a precious few hours. “It’s a tough year to do an ad,” one marketing expert told the Associated Press.