The high stakes game of Super Bowl advertising

(REUTERS) - Dads comfort crying kids and animals look adorable as brands take a play-it-safe route this year in the fiercely fought ad battle that will unfold during Sunday's (February 1) broadcast of the Super Bowl.

Companies spent up to a record US$6.1 million for 30 seconds during the US football championship that traditionally draws more than 100 million viewers, the year's biggest TV audience. The contest between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will be broadcast on Comcast Corp's NBC.

With so much on the line, many marketers are turning to upbeat messages and striking tones of unity, festivity and triumph over adversity, experts said. Dozens of commercials and teasers have already been released online.

One of the trends in this year's Super Bowl is ads celebrating fatherhood and family. Dove, Toyota and Nissan are running commercials with hashtags including #RealStrength, #OneBoldChoice and #withdad, as advertisers are using social media to keep the conversation going off-line.

Anheuser-Busch InBev's Budweiser, which scored a year ago with a heart-warming ad about a puppy and the brand's trademark Clydesdales, is returning to that theme. On Thursday (January 29), its new Lost Dog ad topped rankings by iSpot, which tracks video views and social media comments, and had been watched more than 6 million times on YouTube.

Automobile manufactures Kia, BMW, Nissan, Toyota, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz will advertise. But Acura, Audi, Volkswagen and Jaguar will not.

General Motors will also sit on the sidelines and will not advertise its Chevy, Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands.

Among the newcomers this year are fifteen new advertisers. They include mobile phone accessory maker Mophie, glue company Loctite, Skittles candies, Avocados from Mexico, Jublia and cruise operator Carnival Corp.