The NFL has been the recipient of harsh criticism this season, with controversial topics ranging from national anthem protests to traumatic brain injury. Maybe it’s no wonder that TV viewership is down nine percent compared to a year ago. But that doesn’t mean there won’t still be the anticipated 100-million audience come Super Bowl Sunday. As usual though, many won’t have the TV on for the football game being played, but rather for the ad bowl game that takes place each year.

Despite the league’s challenges this season, advertising demand for the super Sunday showcase has not dwindled. NBC is reportedly getting “north of $5 million” per 30-second spot and ad slots are said to be nearly sold out. The network even expects to set a single day ad revenue record.

With just over two weeks until game day, here are my top three predictions for this year’s crop of Super Bowl ads.

  1. Fewer ad reveals: Last year, 36 of the 49 Super Bowl ads were pre-released, but it’s looking like brands may hold their commercials a bit tighter to the vest this year. So far, only Astral Tequila and Stella Artois have released ads, and just a handful of others have teased their ads, but haven’t said they intend to pre-release. One could argue this is in part due to shorter attention spans and the preference of consumers for shorter format videos, which doesn’t always translate for Big Game ads. I still imagine many brands will release ads ahead of their television debut as we inch closer to game day, but I have a hunch the number will be fewer this year.
  2. Politics will be present: While humor is likely to play a large role in entertaining viewers, we can expect to see political undertones once again. Why? Because what doesn’t have a political undercurrent today? Even though some politically charged ads were criticized last year, and the risk for taking this route is high, advertisers are likely to share stories of diversity, female empowerment and other social issues. Case in point: Matt Damon is helping keep Stella Artois’ commitment to Water.org. Which brands are brave enough to take this route and weather the social media scrutiny that is sure to ensue remains to be seen.
  3. Women are the stars: Speaking of female empowerment, I’m going out on a limb here, hoping that more women will be the stars of ads this year than in previous years. And I’m not talking about ads where they are objectified by viewers. I mean substantive roles that portray females authentically. We already know that Cindy Crawford will star in Pepsi’s commercial (yes, I realize this one is questionable to reference), Tiffany Haddish was announced as Groupon’s new spokesperson and Iggy Azalea has joined forces with audio brand, Monster Products. The #MeToo movement has put a spotlight on women, especially in entertainment, so while I’m realistic that Super Bowl commercials have traditionally had more opportunities for men, I want to give brands the benefit of the doubt to start to close the gender gap and change the portrayal of women in advertising. After all, women make up nearly half of the Super Bowl viewing audience.

Do you have any predictions to add? Even if you aren’t a football fan, there is much to look forward to with Super Bowl LII.

For more insights on communications and brand strategy, industry trends and more, subscribe today to the Weekly Buzz here.