ST. LOUIS, MO – Bud Light is gearing up for the Super Bowl with what the company is expecting to be a game-changing 60-second commercial, marking the beer’s ambitious attempt to recover from a consumer boycott in the previous year.
Parent company Anheuser-Busch is leaving no stone unturned, with a minute-long Michelob Ultra ad featuring soccer legend Lionel Messi and a 30-second Budweiser spot highlighting the work of its wholesalers and showcasing its iconic Clydesdale horses.
According to Kyle Norrington, Anheuser-Busch’s chief commercial officer, the company carefully selected the right brands that can truly capitalize on the massive reach of the Super Bowl and the NFL playoffs. “These are the brands that we thought deserve that opportunity this year,” Norrington explained.
While the cost of a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl usually hovers around $7 million, prices can vary depending on factors such as the number of spots purchased by companies.
Bud Light’s ad is the culmination of a five-month campaign centered around the National Football League. This campaign is part of a broader marketing strategy aimed at salvaging the brand’s reputation after losing its position as the top-selling U.S. beer to Modelo Especial.
A recent analysis of NIQ data by consulting firm Bump Williams revealed that Modelo Especial accounted for 8.6% of retail-store beer sales in the first two weeks of 2024, compared to Bud Light’s 7.4%. During the same period, Bud Light sales were down 28.9% from the previous year, while Modelo’s sales increased by 15.1%.
The boycott that led to the decline was sparked by outrage from consumers, activists, and celebrities over a social media promotion involving transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. This controversy ultimately resulted in the departure of Bud Light’s marketing chief, Alissa Heinerscheid. Heinerscheid’s description of previous Bud Light campaigns as containing “fratty, sort of out of touch humor” further fueled the backlash from loyal drinkers.
Since Heinerscheid’s exit, Bud Light has been working to strike a balance between comedy and their marketing message. Summer campaigns featured ads depicting beer drinkers burning their bare feet on sun-scorched asphalt or hilariously falling out of hammocks. Additionally, commercials aired during the NFL season showcased fans engaging in quirky game-day traditions.
This year’s Super Bowl ad promises to ramp up the humor while introducing a fresh brand character, all while staying true to Bud Light’s “Easy to Drink, Easy to Enjoy” marketing theme, according to Norrington. “You’re going to see what our brand lovers expect, which is some really funny advertising,” he added.
In contrast, Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad aims to highlight Anheuser-Busch’s deep-rooted connection to American culture. Featuring an independent wholesaler and the brand’s iconic Clydesdales, the commercial seeks to evoke resilience and community spirit, as explained by Norrington.
The commercial for Michelob Ultra, on the other hand, will celebrate soccer. The low-calorie brand’s ad will follow a series of sports partnership deals, including collaborations with the Professional Bull Riders, Copa America, the National Basketball Association, and Team USA, the national Olympics team.
Anheuser-Busch has been a prominent advertiser in almost every Super Bowl since 1975. The company, which held the exclusive alcohol advertising rights for the game for 33 years until 2022, has steadily expanded its Super Bowl marketing efforts beyond just the Sunday night event. This includes running promotions on beer packaging and hosting pop-up events in host cities during Super Bowl weekend.
For this year’s Super Bowl, Anheuser-Busch plans to allocate its marketing budget to branded events spread across Las Vegas, the host city, and advertise on the colossal digital screen encircling the new Sphere arena. The Clydesdales will also make an appearance in Sin City, delivering Budweiser beer throughout the town, according to Norrington.
Anheuser-Busch remains one of the largest brewing companies globally while based in the United States. It was founded in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1852. Anheuser-Busch is renowned for its iconic brands like Budweiser and Bud Light and has a significant presence in American and international beer markets. In 2008, Anheuser-Busch merged with InBev to form Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewing company by revenue.