If you’re football fanatics like us, January is an exciting time. The playoffs are well under way and each game brings us that much closer to the mother of all football games: Super Bowl XLIV. For us, though, the Super Bowl isn’t just about the football; it’s a chance to view what will most likely be the best commercials of the year.  It’s no secret that a spot in the Super Bowl commercial line-up is as coveted for brands as it is for the two teams playing in the game itself. For once during the year, viewers will put down their DVR remotes and purposely watch the commercials during the breaks between the football action. Some of the most well known commercials of all time have aired during this game and brands have spent some serious cash vying for a spot. In 2009 alone, Super Bowl advertising brought in $213 million in revenue just based on ads airing during the game.

      This year, however, the recession seems to have taken its toll on this otherwise lucrative deal. For only the second time in the game’s history, the price of a Super Bowl ad has dropped. Although still the most expensive on television, CBS Sports is reporting that next month’s ads will cost between $2.5 – 2.8 million, down from about $3 million last year. This isn’t the only sign of the times, though. Soft drink giant Pepsi has announced that they will not be advertising in this year’s Super Bowl for the first time in 23 seasons. They join FedEx and GM who dropped out last year. This, coupled with the price drop, has made room for some smaller brands and newcomers to get their shot at a slot, such as vacation rental website HomeAway, which will air its first television commercial in the third quarter of this year’s game.

     To get the most bang for their buck in this economic downturn, it’s not unusual for these smaller brands to use advertising during the Super Bowl specifically as a way to introduce themselves, introduce a new product, or jumpstart a new campaign, whereas a brand like Pepsi would simply be using the ad to remind people of their continued presence. Some of the brands that you’ll see in a few weeks include: Hyundai, Bridgestone, GoDaddy, Denny’s, Honda, Anheuser-Busch, Monster.com, Audi, E-Trade Financial, Unilever and Sprint. Will you be watching?