It's not just the NFL that's changing its playbook ahead of the big game--major brands are too. A slew of flagship advertisers will be sitting on the sidelines this year, paving the way for some notable newcomers to take to the field. But both veteran advertisers and upstart brands alike will face many obstacles if they plan to score a touchdown with viewers.

The most notable players off the advertising roster this year are Anheuser Busch (BUD  ) , Pepsi (PEP  ), and Coca-Cola (KO  ). Anheuser plans to stable their iconic Clydesdales and instead pour their advertising budget into PSAs to raise vaccine awareness. Meanwhile, Pepsi and Coke will call a détente in the Cola Wars. Pepsi plans to pour its ad budget into its perennial half time show. Pepsi plans to run ads for its other brands, including Frito Lay and Mountain Dew, while Coca-Cola will sit the game out entirely. The iconic brand lost more than half its sales last year as large venues and movie theaters shuttered across the nation. The resulting layoffs gave Coke some pause. As a result, Coke plans to save its Super Bowl ad budget to ensure that they're "investing in the right resources during these unprecedented times," according to a spokesperson, the Associated Press reports.

While many major brands have struggled due to the pandemic's human and financial toll, there have also been some clear winners. Online platforms, Fiverr (FVRR  ) and Doordash (DASH  ), and household names like Scotts Miracle Grow (SMG  ) and Huggies (KMB  ) will take to the field for the first time on Super Bowl Sunday.

Three of the newcomers plan to play off of themes related to the pandemic. For instance, freelance platform Fiverr's ad will feature the maxim "it starts here." The site aims to play up its role as a resource for businesses throughout the pandemic. Meanwhile, Doordash will use Sesame Street characters to cast the platform as a facilitator of charitable giving between neighbors. Scotts Miracle Grow will highlight the importance of outdoor spaces in bringing people together during this era of social distancing.

But brands old and new alike will have a tough time making the right play this year. Usually, Super Bowl spots are planned and conceived over the summer months. But during the summer of 2020, it was uncertain if there'd be a Super Bowl at all. These uncertainties have left most brands without enough lead time to develop ads that strike the right emotional chord with viewers. The frenetic and often violent social and political landscape means that tonality is now more critical than ever.

Difficulties aside, the 2021 Super Bowl offers some clear opportunities. For the most, part bars and other crowded venues will be empty, meaning that 2021's Super Bowl audience will be more captive than ever. As a result, brands, both old and new, have a real opportunity to connect with audiences, provided they strike the right tone.

"It's a tough year to do an ad" Paul Argenti, professor of communication at Dartmouth College, told the AP. "It will be a good year for creative companies who figure out how to thread that needle."