Restaurant brands are punting on expensive in-game commercials for Super Bowl XLVIII in favor of more cost-effective marketing strategies like pregame commercials or, increasingly, social-media campaigns before and during the big game.

Unlike last year, when Taco Bell and Subway ran in-game commercials during the National Football League’s championship game, no restaurants have announced plans to advertise during the Super Bowl, which will be televised Feb. 2 on Fox. The game’s airtime reportedly sold out last December, and marketers reportedly paid as much as $4 million for a 30-second spot.

However, several restaurant brands, including KFC and Subway, have begun hinting at social media campaigns timed to coincide with the Super Bowl or the week leading up to the big game, and many chains with ties to the NFL are expected to advertise during the pregame show, as Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and McDonald’s have done for the past few years.

Maureen Morrison, the Chicago-based editor of Advertising Age who covers the quick-service industry, was not surprised that restaurants largely chose to stay on the sidelines during the Super Bowl this year in favor of pregame or social-media campaigns.

“That [in-game versus pregame] debate has been going on for a while, because it is getting so expensive to buy an in-game ad,” she said. “Last year, Subway and Taco Bell bought into the game at the last second, and when they did, their commercials were more branding-oriented.”

She added that brands that have partnered with the NFL or popular football players — particularly Papa John’s, the official sponsor of the league whose spokesman and franchisee, Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, will start in his third Super Bowl this year — have been laying the groundwork for a big day on Super Bowl Sunday all season. A Super Bowl commercial is not likely to motivate people to leave where they are watching the game to grab a meal, so the expensive in-game slots are less attractive to restaurant marketers, she surmised.

“Chain restaurants probably figure that if they want to get people to buy their products, customers are probably already eating or would have ordered by the time the game has kicked off,” Morrison said. “A Super Bowl commercial is not going to get many immediate new customers that day, so brands can have success in pregame advertising and save money in the process.”