How Super Bowl LV Will Be Different for Advertisers and Fans

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entertainment industry in a big way over the past year or so. The NFL, specifically, was forced to make extreme adjustments to many of its regular season games in order to ensure the safety of its players, staff, and fans. Despite all of that, the NFL is determined to move forward with its biggest game of the year—the Super Bowl.

Pending any major changes, Super Bowl LV will take place on Sunday, February 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. Because the COVID-19 pandemic is ever-changing, the NFL has made it clear that their plans are subject to change up until gameday. In fact, the league approved a contingency plan in November 2020 that allows the big game to be delayed by up to four weeks, if necessary. 

As you can imagine, the Super Bowl will be a bit different this year. Here’s a breakdown of what we know about what football’s biggest event will look like during a pandemic.   

The Event Will Have a Limited Seating Capacity

To comply with local and state guidelines, the NFL announced that it will plan for a 33% seating capacity for the big game.

Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has a maximum seating capacity of around 66 thousand people. This means that only around 22 thousand fans will have the opportunity to watch the event live. Of the 22,000 attendees, 7,500 of them will be vaccinated healthcare workers who were invited to attend by the NFL at no cost.

Fans will be seated in pods, which will be positioned six feet apart, and everyone in attendance will be required to wear face masks. The NFL will provide every fan with a KN95 mask upon entry. 

The Halftime Show Could Occur Off-site 

Grammy Award-winning artist The Weeknd is set to perform during the Super Bowl LV halftime show.

The halftime show is a large production that requires a considerable amount of staffing, which makes things challenging in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, while the final logistics have yet to be announced, the league is looking into safer alternatives to minimize risk. One potential alternative would be an offsite halftime show bubble that would allow the league to isolate the fans, players, and coaches from the halftime show staff.

Throughout the regular football season, the NFL banned all on-field entertainment. If the league maintains these restrictions, fans in attendance may have to watch the halftime performance on television like everyone at home. 

Media Day Will Occur Virtually

For the first time in Super Bowl history, the event’s famous media day will be fully virtual. The event will now be held on the evening of Monday, February 1. This new, virtual format means that fans aren’t likely to see costumed reporters or hear the usual barrage of awkward interview questions that fuel internet memes.

"I'm just here so I won't get fined" - Internet Meme

Another benefit of a virtual media day is that teams won’t be required to arrive on-site as far in advance of the big game as they usually do (at least a week in advance is typical).

In fact, the Kansas City Chiefs have already announced that they won’t fly to Tampa until the day before Super Bowl LV. The organization is hoping these travel changes will allow them to continue with their current COVID-19 testing routine and minimize the potential risk of their players coming in contact with fans before the big day.

The Impact on Super Bowl LV Advertising for Brands 

These drastic changes to Super Bowl LV don’t simply impact the NFL—they also impact the brands that advertise during this major national event. 

Last year, the 77 highly coveted Super Bowl commercial spots were completely booked by Thanksgiving. In November 2020, CBS still had dozens of commercials spots left. In fact, Super Bowl commercial regulars like Budweiser, Coke, and Pepsi have already announced that they’ll bow out this year.

We believe brands were hesitant to book commercial spots this year for a variety of reasons. Here’s a breakdown.

Humor May Not Play Well This Year

Super Bowl commercials are notoriously humorous. But, during a global pandemic that has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths in our country, brands may be concerned that this type of advertising will appear tone deaf. On the flip side, brands may also be concerned that a somber commercial may come off as dark and depressing.

After a Difficult Financial Year, Ad Costs May Be Hard to Swallow

This year, a 30-second Super Bowl commercial spot costs $5.5 million. This is a huge expense for any brand under normal circumstances. But, after a difficult financial year for so many brands, the price tag may have been a difficult sell to management.

There’s a Risk of Cancellation

As with any big event during a global pandemic, there’s always a risk that the Super Bowl could be unexpectedly cancelled. While CBS has promised to refund brands for their commercial spots should this occur, this refund wouldn’t include any budget that a brand has already put towards commercial production. So, brands could end up losing money if things go south. 

Super Bowl Commercials

Despite Concerns, Super Bowl LV Commercials Are Booked

If Super Bowl commercials are your favorite part of the big game, don’t fret! On January 27, ViacomCBS announced that they’d finally booked all of the open commercial spots despite the initial drop in demand by brands. 

The Super Bowl May Be Just What We Need

Given the challenges of the past year, it seems as though the Super Bowl—despite it’s pandemic-related adjustments—will serve as a welcome distraction for football (and commercial) fans across the country! We can’t wait to see how it goes.


Is your brand looking to reach Millennial + Gen-Z audiences in new ways? YMC can help! Contact us today for more information.

COVID-19 On Campus: A Reflection On Campus Marketing in 2020 and Predictions for 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the lives of people around the world. This has been especially true for college students.

So much of the traditional college experience hinges on interpersonal connections and shared spaces. But, given the nature of the COVID-19 virus, colleges and universities have had to take things in a drastically different direction without much warning. Institutions have been forced to adapt to a new normal, which put the health and safety of students first. 

In-person classes were replaced with Zoom lecture marathons and countless hours in front of dual screens; crowded dining halls and student unions were forfeited for virtual events and distanced social interactions; and much more.

As you can imagine, these sudden changes also drastically impacted campus marketing efforts. At YMC, we adapted our campus marketing strategies to engage students no matter where they’re living, studying, and sharing in 2020.

With 2020 in the rear view mirror, we wanted to share some of the valuable things we’ve learned and our predictions about what campus marketing will look like in 2021.

Every School Is Different

After unexpected school shutdowns in the spring 2020 semester, colleges and universities had a bit more time when strategizing their opening plans for fall 2020. One of the main things we noticed was the wide variance in the operating status of campuses based on state, local, and university-driven COVID-19 regulations.

Leading up to the fall semester, we referenced The Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of campus reopening models daily to stay on top of the national landscape. On the local level, we found that our YMC student network and ambassadors provide the most accurate information regarding students’ locations (living remote, on, or off campus) and behaviors. 

We’ve leveraged this information to adapt our campaigns in real time and adjust expectations by campus. We always treat each school individually when managing college marketing programs; and in this situation, input from students helped us optimize what we could safely execute for the best results. 

Maybelline No Touch Product Sampling Example

“No Touch” Sampling Can Be Highly Effective

As we studied the varied reopening plans for the fall 2020 semester, we found that many campuses selected to offer adjusted in-person or hybrid learning models. In these cases, we found that working with local students to understand the protocols associated with activating on campus, the access level to students, and the overall comfort with face-to-face (always masked) interactions has been beneficial.

For our Maybelline program, we worked with college ambassadors to distribute pre-packed product sampling bags and gifts to on- and off-campus housing complexes and outdoor gatherings. This varied from pre-COVID interactions where Maybelline ambassadors offered students high-touch product interaction and trial experiences. 

Because in-person brand interactions were so limited in 2020, students expressed increased excitement and appreciation for Maybelline’s efforts to reach them during a difficult time. Product sampling bags reached thousands of students and resulted in over 10k product link views and a 5% conversion rate to purchase.

Pentel Digital Event Example

Digital Events Work

Digital events have also been successful, as they’ve enabled our brand partners and ambassadors  to provide brand experiences to broader audiences.

We found that college students are most likely to participate in events hosted after 7 PM EST on weekdays and early-to-mid afternoon on the weekends. Digital fatigue is real and this timing provided students with a break in between classes and another virtual activity. Meeting platforms (such as Zoom and Google Hangouts), microsites, and Instagram Live have offered the best interaction with this audience.

In our work with Pentel, we transitioned a longstanding in-person art experience into an online format and encouraged students to relax and create in their own space. We partnered with Pentel to host a 3-night Pentel Sketch Session event series featuring calligraphy, watercolor, and line drawing classes with featured artists. Hosting these events digitally allowed Pentel to bring in experts to showcase skills and answer art-related career questions with college students at scale. 

@hikari.murakami

Join the #AerieRealpositivity challenge, uplift each other and @aerie will donate to America’s Food Fund! #aeriereal #aeriepartner #aerieambassador

♬ 100% Real Love – PopUpGirl

Social Media Is Essential

While Gen-Z has been using TikTok for a few years, the pandemic and stay-at-home culture have accelerated mass adoption and endless scroll time on the platform. We found success in encouraging ambassadors to leverage short-form video clips on TikTok and Instagram to further engage their followers and feature brand products. Students were able to amplify existing brand challenges or create their own by pulling from the latest trends.

Our brand ambassadors played an important role in the launch of Aerie’s first TikTok challenge. The #AerieRealPositivity hashtag challenge created a movement around expressing yourself and sharing positivity at home. With the amplification of a paid campaign and celebrity role model support, this campaign generated 6,600+ user-generated videos with 2.1 billion views. 

Looking Ahead at Campus Marketing in 2021

As you can see, we’ve learned a lot in 2020. And, while the pandemic isn’t over yet, we’re feeling an increased sense of optimism about the year to come. 

Now that colleges and universities have more than 10 months of prevention and testing experience under their belts and the COVID-19 vaccine is in early stages of distribution in the U.S., some institutions are preparing for an increase in in-person and hybrid course offerings this spring.

As we begin planning for this year (and beyond!), we wanted to share a few predictions about what campus marketing may look like in 2021. Please note that the following are subject to national, state, and local policy, as well as CDC guidance.

January – March 2021

The early part of 2021 will likely look very similar to the past few months, with limited in-person events and classes.

Late March – April 2021

In the late months of the spring 2021 semester, we expect campuses with in-person and hybrid learning models to begin to explore the possibilities of holding outdoor, in-person events and activities. This will likely be especially true at warm weather schools in the South and West regions of the U.S..

Fall 2021

The fall 2021 semester presents the best opportunity for a potential return to “regular” campus life. At this time, it’s likely that the health and safety precautions introduced in 2020 will remain at the forefront for the next several years.

In summary, we recommend that brands continue to lean on digital events and social tactics to engage students in the early part of the year. As the weather starts to get warmer and students spend more time outdoors, “no touch” sampling can resume and the possibility of highly regulated in-person events can be explored. The summer months should allow for more in-person brand engagement, while full-on experiential activations, mobile tours, and student-led events are more likely to return in the fall 2021 semester.

How YMC Can Help

If you’re interested in learning more about college marketing during this unique time, we’re here to help. At YMC, we’ve been connecting brands with 15- to 29-year-old consumers for two decades—we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!

The Inside Scoop on Millennial and Gen-Z Holiday Gifting in 2020

This year has looked a bit different than others. So far in 2020, we’ve faced a global pandemic, elected a new president, fought for social justice, and so much more. It goes without saying that this holiday season is sure to look a little different, too!

In such a unique time, the already challenging task of holiday shopping for the Gen-Z’ers and Millennials in your life is even more difficult. So, to make things just a little simpler,  we’re giving you the gift of the inside scoop!

We reached out to our proprietary community of influential 18-34 year-olds to get their thoughts on all things 2020 holiday gift giving—from how they plan to shop to what they’d most like to receive. Here’s what they had to say.

About Our Millennial + Generation-Z Community

The YMC community, including our @youthmarketing followers, consists of more than two-hundred thousand highly-engaged students and young adults from across North America. Over 90% of our network is between the ages of 18-34. In other words, our community represents Millennials and Generation-Z. 

So, to collect the best possible tips for Millennial and Gen-Z holiday shopping, we went directly to the source! We polled our audience via our internal network and directly on Instagram Stories and received an incredible number of responses. 

What We Discovered + What it Means for Holiday Shopping in 2020

Our Instagram survey helped us to uncover some interesting insights that’ll impact how consumers are shopping for Millennial and Gen-Z  gifts this season. 

It wasn’t surprising to learn that, given the current pandemic and the resulting lifestyle changes, Millennial and Gen-Z consumers are now purchasing items they wouldn’t have considered in the past. These purchasing decisions are also making an impact on their holiday wish lists. 

Here are some of the key takeaways from our research and what they mean for Millennial and Generation-Z gift giving in 2020:

75% of respondents said they’re currently working or attending classes virtually
Millennials and Gen-Z’ers are spending more time at home. So, it’s a safe bet to give gifts that align with the homebody lifestyle.

Nearly all respondents said they’re favoring online shopping this holiday season
Most Millennials and Generation-Z are staying COVID-safe and ditching the stores this holiday season. Consider ordering a gift online and having it shipped directly to your special someone’s doorstep.

Most respondents would rather receive cash than a gift card
With our audience ditching in-store shopping, it was surprising to find that people prefer receiving cash over gift cards to use at their leisure. This means a holiday card with some green definitely isn’t out of the question!

Gift cards aren’t dead (even though most respondents would rather receive cash)

While most respondents said they’d prefer cash over gift cards, they also indicated that they’d be open to receiving gift cards. There’s no shame in the gift card game!

80% of respondents admit to exclusively living in casual and comfy clothes this year
We weren’t surprised to see that 80% of our Millennial and Gen-Z survey participants are living in loungewear. So, when it comes to purchasing clothing as a gift, think fuzzy and soft!

A majority of respondents love subscription boxes
Most of the respondents said they’d love to receive a subscription box as a gift because it’s the gift that keeps giving. So, if you’re open to a monthly spend, this could be your best bet!

Gift Ideas for Millennials + Gen-Z

Based on these findings (and some helpful hints from our community), we’ve pulled together a few ideas for gifts that’re sure to please your Millennial and Generation-Z loved ones.

YMC Holiday Gift Guide 2020 Infographic

Gift Cards

While our survey participants indicated that they’d prefer cash over gift cards, a gift card adds a personal touch and is easier to use online. When asked what gift cards they’d prefer, some of the top brands our respondents mentioned were Amazon, Target, Sephora, Starbucks, and VISA. They also recommended shopping small and local, as many of those businesses are now offering gift cards and better e-commerce experiences.

All Things Cozy

A vast majority of our participants are working or taking classes remotely, but they indicated that they’d prefer receiving comfy and cozy essentials over items for their WFH setups. Desired items mentioned included blankets, sweatpants, coffee, headphones, and essential oils. 

We recommend checking out Nordstrom Rack, Urban Outfitters, and Nespresso for goodies that’ll help keep your loved ones comfy and cozy.

Loungewear

Our Millennial and Gen-Z survey participants indicated that they’d love to receive loungewear as a holiday gift. Some ideas include anything sherpa, boots, slippers, and matching sets.

Check out Aerie, LL Bean, and adidas for some on-trend loungewear gift options! If you’re looking for something more unique, take a peak at Depop’s thrifted items. 

Subscription Services

If you’re looking for a gift that’ll keep on giving after the holiday season, look no further than a subscription service. Our Millennial and Gen-Z respondents noted their favorites as FabFitFun, HelloFresh, and Winc.

Don’t Forget to Support Small, Local, + Black-Owned Businesses

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the importance of supporting small, local, and Black-owned businesses this holiday season.

According to an article published by Salesforce, “56% of consumers — and 62% of Millennials, the largest consumer segment — say they spend more at small businesses now than they did last year.”  So, we bet the Millennials and Gen-Z’ers on your list will be thrilled to see you’re doing the same!

Here’s a list of a few of the YMC team’s favorite small, local, and Black-owned businesses to inspire your shopping!

We hope this inside scoop on holiday gift giving for Millennials and Gen-Z’ers has you feeling inspired. We wish you a happy, safe holiday season and happy shopping!

Looking for More Than Shopping Tips?

If you’re a brand manager interested in reaching more Millennial and Generation-Z consumers, we can help! At YMC, we’ve been connecting brands with 15- to 34-year-old consumers for two decades—we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!