Super Bowl LV opening night kicks off tomorrow but expect it to look a lot different than previous years. The event which signifies the beginning of the Super Bowl festivities is going virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Opening Night begins at 8 p.m. on NFL Network. Instead of featuring the entire rosters, only 9 players from each team will take questions from the media via Zoom.
The Q&A session will happen earlier in the day, but fans will see “the best of the best moments,” a press release said. USA Today is reporting the Chiefs won’t even travel to Tampa Bay until Friday or Saturday. Typically, the teams arrive at the host city a week in advance. But they want to guard against the pandemic as much as possible.
The NFL said it’s taking COVID-19 safety seriously for the week of events preceding the Super Bowl.
“This season, in the interest of health and safety for all involved, Super Bowl Opening Night will be conducted virtually from the participating teams’ home cities,” the NFL said in a press release. “Nine players from each participating team, alongside their head coach will take part in virtual Opening Night festivities.”
The game may look much different as well because of those precautions. This could be the lowest attended Super Bowl ever. The title game has sold out every year despite the inaugural. Though nearly 66,000 fans can fit in Raymond James Stadium holds, USA Today reports the NFL cap capacity at 22,000 masked fans. And most of those will be vaccinated healthcare workers.
Even The Ads Will Look Different at this Year’s Super Bowl
Large companies, famous for their Super Bowl advertisements, are skipping the game this year. So far, Coke, Hyundai, Olay, Avocados From Mexico, Little Caesars, and Ford have opted out of their traditional spots in the Super Bowl, Variety reported. Pepsi has also pulled its ads, but it will still sponsor the halftime show.
Political and social upheaval and the pandemic have made the margin for error too thin, experts say. A small misstep can be magnified into a major problem.
“If you are too somber, funny, or incendiary — or if you don’t strike the ‘right’ chord for the moment — the backlash can be significant,” University of Virginia assistant marketing professor Kimberly Whitler told USA Today. “Everything is magnified. Press — good and bad — is amplified. The risk is simply greater.”
A mistake can cost a company millions in lost revenue and bad press. For example, people still complain about that 2017 Super Bowl Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner. Aside from the political costs, the actual cost for the airtime is incredibly high, as well.
“Every client conversation I’ve had these days is about who is going to be offended by this ad,” said Rob Schwartz, chief executive officer of ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day. “There’s a lot of discussion about risk mitigation. What that tends to do is that it makes things very bland and not effective or it forces you to look at universal topics like hope or humor.”