With streaming popularity at an all-time high and cable cord-cutters more prevalent than ever, traditional network television has become wildly inconsistent for advertisers. Despite the daily uncertainty about network TV viewership, there will always be one unwavering constant: Super Bowl Sunday.
The NFL's grandest stage averages well over 100 million viewers every year, making their typical three-hour time slot the most valuable real estate for advertisers across the world. While you can bank on products like Doritos and Bud Light to drop a new ad every first Sunday in February, big blockbuster films have proved to make a consistent splash in recent memory.
Past Super Bowls have been highlighted by now-iconic MCU TV spots, from Captain America: Civil War's “DIVIDED WE FALL” teaser to Disney+'s “The Universe is Expanding” sizzle reel. Without further ado, here are TheDirect.com's predictions for what Marvel Studios trailers you can expect during the big game's commercial breaks this year.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
The first footage from this star-spangled show dropped at last year's big game, and I expect a more detailed look at Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan's solo series at this year's Super Bowl.
Let's take a trip back to Disney Investor Day. Marvel gave us our first looks at shows like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, and Ms. Marvel, while also dropping a second official trailer for WandaVision, around five weeks before Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany would debut their solo series on Disney+ screens. By the time the Chiefs and Buccaneers clash, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will be just over five weeks away from its streaming debut. If Marvel intends to run a similar marketing campaign for this patriotic program, the writing is on the wall for a The Falcon and the Winter Soldier TV spot during the big game.
Beyond that, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has footage tailor-made for the Super Bowl. While the initial trailer was riddled with secrets, fans will remember Wyatt Russell's US Agent high-fiving an enthusiastic band member as he approaches a stage on what looks to be a high school football field in both last year's Super Bowl TV spot and Disney Investor Day's full trailer. If Marvel intends to drop a TV spot centered around a specific scene, there aren't many more appropriate than US Agent's football field inauguration.
Another Disney+ Sizzle Reel
The Super Bowl LIV Disney+ sizzle was one of Marvel's more genius marketing techniques.
In just 30 seconds, Marvel Studios were able to communicate to over one hundred million people that they had three episodic MCU installments in the works: WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki. Without revealing any real substance, Marvel once again put their excitement train into hyper speed.
Sure, only one of those three shows ended up airing in the time since, but the spot still did its job: get viewers invested. So why not do it again?
In the time since last year's big game, Marvel has just about finished production on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki, and the team is getting deep into shooting Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel as well. While Sam Wilson's solo series will likely be spotlighted in its own trailer, that leaves three live-action MCU shows due later in 2021 to fill another Disney+ TV spot.
Last year's spot was primarily balanced between WandaVision and Falcon and Winter Soldier footage, with one brief shot of Tom Hiddleston's trickster proclaiming that he was “going to burn this place to the ground.” Considering Loki is due in May, I would expect the God of Mischief to captain this potential spot with just about half the footage dedicated to his time travel adventure. With Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye both beginning production around the same time at the end of 2020, it would make sense for those projects to each see an equal amount of screen time in a potential Super Bowl spot.
Assuming this sizzle spot only operates with half a minute, it would be tough to tease every 2021 Disney+ release, which seems to indicate that the live-action properties yet to air will see the most spotlight. That being said, if Marvel doubles down and gets a full 60-second spot, expect shows like What If…? and WandaVision to pepper in some looks into the animated anthology and the second half of Scarlet Witch's solo series, respectively.
Here we go again.
Marvel Studios is not exactly struggling for money, so throwing a couple million at one more 30-second Black Widow spot just to make sure viewers know the movie still exists might not be such a bad idea.
As we speculated on a recent episode of The Direct Podcast, the window is closing on an appropriate Black Widow release. With all the uncertainty in 2020, Marvel could afford to push all their projects to this year and ultimately indefinitely delay Phase 4. That being said, as of January 15, the Phase 4 clock has officially started. Marvel has no timeouts left.
In order to keep the ball moving, Marvel needs to release Black Widow within the next few months before it starts to drastically affect the trajectory of the bigger narrative. As exclusively reported by TheDirect.com in November, Florence Pugh is set to reprise her Black Widow role in the Hawkeye series. With Clint Barton's archery adventure aimed for a Fall release, Pugh's Yelena Bolova needs to make her on-screen debut before that series begins streaming.
Black Widow's expiration date is approaching. The iron will never be as hot as it was last spring, but Marvel has to strike while it is at least still warm. Expect a brief 30-second spot of recycled footage with an end title card that confirms a theatrical release, or makes the big announcement that it's shifting to streaming.
Sony teased that they would reveal a “first look” at Tom Holland's threequel before the end of 2020, and while that didn't end up coming to fruition, it shows that they are at least planning on a lengthy marketing campaign for Spider-Man 3.
From Jamie Foxx's return to Tobey Maguire's rumored negotiations, Spidey 3 has commanded the Marvel news feed for a number of months now. It genuinely feels like this flick is going to be an Infinity War-level event for the Peter Parker character, and it only makes sense that Sony would want to kickstart the hype train long before it releases.
Beyond wanting to capitalize on the excitement surrounding the casting news, Spidey 3 has the luxury of a December release date. This might just be wishful thinking, but it feels like the world will be somewhat normalized by the end of this calendar year. If there was a movie on this list that has the least to lose by beginning their marketing campaign on Super Bowl Sunday, it's Spider-Man 3.
All that being said, Spider-Man 3 remains a dark horse because of how far out it is. Marvel typically drops the first footage of their MCU flicks within five months of release, which casts some doubt on a trailer this early. That being said, this is still a Sony Pictures project at the end of the day, so what they ultimately do is their decision. Sony did just delay Morbius to 2022, and if they want to regain some faith from their shareholders, a Spidey 3 first look might just be the way to go.
If Sony pulls the trigger on a Spider-Man 3 first look on Super Bowl Sunday, expect footage of Alfred Molina's Doc Ock, as well as an official subtitle reveal.
Spider-Man: Home Alone 2: Lost in the Spider-Verse anyone?
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Remember that famous five-month window? Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is scheduled to release exactly five months and three days after Super Bowl Sunday.
Marvel's faith in their 2021 release dates will be determined by a Shang-Chi trailer. In a normal year, a Shang-Chi Super Bowl trailer would be a no question. This is one of Marvel's least-known characters, and there is no better way to start making Marvel's Master of Kung-Fu a household name than by introducing him to a nine-figure audience.
Unfortunately, it's not a normal year. Kevin Feige has publicly expressed doubt in Black Widow's May release date, which likely means he isn't super optimistic about Shang-Chi's summer release.
Shang-Chi is the closest project on the MCU release slate without a trailer. If Marvel is serious about it making its July drop, it will showcase Simu Liu in action during the big game.
Once again, let's circle back to that five-month window.
Eternals is set to hit theaters on November 5, which sets it around nine months after Super Bowl Sunday. If we pretend that 2021 is a normal year, it would be uncharacteristic for Marvel to showcase a first look at a project still three quarters of a year away.
That being said, Eternals is just about done. Filming is wrapped, and post-production has been moving for most of the quarantine season. I'd go as far to say this flick is in the can and ready to go. If Marvel wants to execute and give fans their first look at one of their more obscure ensembles, they likely have over two hours of footage to pick from.
Considering the risk, Eternals is still a doubtful trailer. If pandemic problems persist and this movie has to be delayed again, a Super Bowl first look would be extremely premature. No studio wants to tease their audience of a project that is still well over a year away, so expect Marvel Studios to play their cards safely and save an Eternals first look for sometime this summer.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
This one is pretty simple. It is way too early in production.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness only recently resumed filming. While flicks like The Batman showed off two minutes of engaging footage with only 25% of the movie shot, Benedict Cumberbatch's sophomore installment requires much more post-production polishing than grounded Caped Crusader tales.
Stephen Strange and visual effects go together better than WandaVision and unusual couple. Considering this sequel only recently began production, it is highly doubtful that any footage they've shot is ready to be shown to the public.
Beyond that, Strange 2 is set to be a spiritual sequel to the events of WandaVision. Similar to how Spider-Man: Far From Home didn't drop a real plot-heavy trailer until after Avengers: Endgame had been out for a couple of weeks, it feels like the Multiverse of Madness will wait to kick off their marketing campaign until after WandaVision has completed its eight-week episodic run.
Thor: Love and Thunder
This one is a similar story to Strange 2. It's too early.
Cast members only began reporting to Sydney, Australia for production within the past week. Director Taika Waititi and leading man Chris Hemsworth celebrated the first day of shooting a number of days ago. Rushing whatever footage they've shot within the first week of production does not fit the patience, planning, execution business model Kevin Feige has used for over a decade.
Beyond that, Thor: Love and Thunder is 15 months away, making its release three times the length away of the five-month marketing window Marvel uses consistently. I wouldn't expect a first look at this flick until after Spider-Man 3 swings into theaters this December.
Regardless of whether these predictions prove to be true or not, you can bet on at least a couple of Marvel TV spots during the most viewed television event of the year.
Which Marvel projects do you think will get a trailer on Super Bowl Sunday? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet me @LiamTCrowley. If all this chatter is getting you sentimental about past great MCU footage drops, be sure to check out The Direct's list of the best Marvel Studios trailers of all time.
Until then, here's hoping for a Spider-Man 3 first look and a seventh Tom Brady Super Bowl ring.