Budweiser’s Super Bowl Commercial: How Embarrassing

The “King of Beers” is being dethroned.

Merriam-Webster defines a king as being “a male ruler of a country who usually inherits his position and rules for life”.

Many people start their beer drinking careers with Bud or another macro brand. When these people switch to craft beers, they’re GONE. No one returns to Bud after a bout of drinking craft. No one. They may occasionally grab one when nothing else is available. But Bud has lost these people as lifelong customers.

A beer brand doesn’t spend 9 million dollars on a commercial to aggressively go after craft beer unless they’re losing ground to craft. And Budweiser is.

Micro (or craft) beer sales are exploding.

And macro Budweiser acknowledges that very clearly.

“Brewed the Hard Way”. This is the title Budweiser gave their 60-second commercial that premiered in the third quarter on Super Bowl Sunday. You know. The commercial with a very noticeably different feel for a Budweiser ad. No puppies or horseys. The one with the mustached beer-sniffing “beer geek”.

Check it out here:

Oh, wait. My bad. That’s an old Carhartt commercial.

Here’s “Brewed the Hard Way”:

Brewed the hard way…

Brewed the hard way?

Budweiser… Go fuck yourselves.

Brewing is tedious, hard work. All brewing is. If you really want to do it the hard way, try adding Lactobacillus to some brews. Try barrel aging beers and taste testing them often to wait on the beer to be ready. Be prepared for that barrel aged beer you’ve painstakingly labored over to taste like it’s just about ready to be bottled one week, and the next, you taste it, and all is lost. Try adding the wild yeast, Brettanomyces, to a beer, and pray that it does what you want it to do and that your risky choice to use that yeast doesn’t cost you infections in other brews. Try brewing a beer with an ABV of over 15% and hope that the yeast you chose is resilient enough to do the job in an environment where yeast find it hard to live.

Please tell me more about how YOU brew “the hard way”, Budweiser.

After the fire in my veins calmed down, I sat down to collect my thoughts.

Clearly, the marketing tools Budweiser is used to using aren’t working.

So Budweiser employed some good old-fashioned advertising scare tactics to try to get the job done.

The point of this commercial was to scare 3 kinds of people into being scared to drink craft beer. It was to speak to current Budweiser drinkers, people just starting to drink beer (because it’s natural to start with the most accessible cheap stuff), and other macro beer (Miller, Coors, etc.) drinkers. Oh yes, and they’re speaking entirely to males.

Budweiser should have stopped after they proclaimed “It’s Not Brewed to be Fussed Over” on one of their screen shots. You got that right, Bud. People aren’t drinking your beer because they’re picky (see also: interested in taste). People are drinking your beer because it’s cheap, accessible, and honestly because they haven’t had a friend to expose them to the vast array of craft beers available out there.

If you want a craft beer recommendation that’s relatively cheap and pretty damn accessible, I’m more than happy to pick your brain about your tastes and help you choose one. I invite and even challenge anyone reading this to message me for good craft recommendations. If you’re just drinking to get drunk, I still have tastier and far more enjoyable ways to recommend to do so!

It’s even ok that for the first time in the history of ever, Budweiser actually embraced that they are macro. Good for you if you want to embrace macro finally. Be who you are. Consumers appreciate honesty. (And it pretty much ends there.)

There’s something to be said about the “biggest doesn’t usually mean best” adage.

To quote an excerpt from my first beer blog post ever, “Miller. Coors. Budweiser. That shit’s not an adventure. It’s a sad, sad reality that millions of Americans face every day. It’s like only trying a burger from McDonald’s, and thinking that it’s the end all, be all of burgers. I have two words. Fuck. That. When is the cheapest (and most available) thing ever the best? It’s not.”

Change is inevitable. If you refuse to change, then defeat is inevitable. If Budweiser thinks this change in advertising will be the change it needs to grow sales that are steadily being stolen away by craft beer, they’re sadly mistaken.

This beer has been brewed the same way since 1876, as the commercial points out.

Did you ever think maybe it’s time to try something different with your beer, Budweiser? Put that 9 million where your mouth is and use it to brew something “crafty”. Listen to what people (and your shrinking market) are saying.

The fact that consumers appreciate honesty bears repeating.

In the commercial, Budweiser touts that it is Beechwood Aged. It’s funny that Bud is playing on a trait and trend that is big in craft beer when in the same commercial, they’re attempting to be definitely opposite.

Barrel aged and wood aged beers are huge and greatly sought after in the wonderful world of beer geeks.

Barrel aging can impart flavors from the wood, notes of oak or vanilla. If the barrel was previously used for wine or rum or bourbon, those flavors can be imparted into the beer, along with some great characteristics from the natural bacteria living in the barrels. Oxygen plays a part in the barrel aging process, too, with age, developing an almost sherry taste in some beers.

Guess what “Beechwood Aging” does for Budweiser’s flavor? NADA.

Budweiser only uses beechwood in their beer as an agent to remove yeast, making the beer more clean and clear. It imparts zero flavor.

Budweiser is counting on people equating beechwood with the fantastic barrel aging flavors that can be found in craft beers. Just a little disingenuous, don’t you think?

“It’s brewed for drinking, not dissecting,” the ad touts with text in front of some older hipster-esque males.

itsbrewedfordrinking

Dear Budweiser… You might want to try this dissecting thing sometime. Maybe a little of this attention to detail (that we hipster craft beer geek folk live for in our beers, because we appreciate the good stuff, and there’s nothing “FUSSY” about that) would have helped you to spell correctly on the menu in the background of this shot in your 9 million dollar commercial.

It’s steak “tartare”. No big. Just something a little more attentiveness would have caught. We know that’s not your area of expertise…

Also, the flowers on the table were a nice little way to indicate that these hipster males were drinking sissy craft beers. Wussies…

Budweiser is insinuating that “real men” (because all of the beer drinkers in this commercial are men) shouldn’t be caught dead drinking that sissy craft stuff. (Yeah… you real men should probably stay away from this 17% ABV bourbon barrel aged stout I’m drinking right now. Wouldn’t want anyone thinking you were a wuss.)

This is exemplified in the scene where we’re in a more happening bar environment in the evening (contrasting the bright slow-paced gastropub scene with the fancy pants craft beer flight and the flowers). We see a table of young (more attractive) men in a much cooler club-like space after dark being served many Budweiser bottles and drafts by the attractive female server. Real men drink our beer. Real men order them in multiples where beautiful women wait on them, fueling their unquenchable thirst.

woman

(The thirst would be quenched if you had ordered beers with flavor. Just sayin’…)

Then… comes the (de)crowning glory of the commercial…

“Let them sip their Pumpkin Peach Ale.”

(Yeah! Let those sissies drink beer with actual flavors!)

Wait. What’s that? AB-InBev (who owns Budweiser) spent 9 MILLION DOLLARS on this commercial bashing craft beer… and they JUST PURCHASED a CRAFT BREWERY that BREWS A PUMPKIN PEACH BEER a few weeks ago?! (They purchased Elysian, who brewed Gourdgia On My Mind, a beer brewed with pumpkin and peach puree.)

Hm. With all that attention to detail that good beer demands, I suppose the folks at InBev again forgot to think through the details before bashing another company they own who brews just such a beer.

This is the part where I drop the mic, step down from my soap box, and leave you to decide. Is this Bud for you?

About the Author: Janee loves beer. (Her Instagram, Twitter, and Untappd user names will tell you just that!) She doesn’t work in the industry, but she brews beer and is studying to become a Certified Cicerone©. Janee works in Marketing and has long been an advertising geek, having earned her B.A. in Communications from Penn State. Unless the Steelers are playing in the Super Bowl, the commercials have always been her favorite part, and something she looks forward to dissecting and discussing!

6 thoughts on “Budweiser’s Super Bowl Commercial: How Embarrassing

  1. You know what’s even worse? Budweiser is getting free marketing because people are now talking about how bad they are for lashing against craft beer and sharing their commercial. They basically trolled the craft beer market into advertising for them! It’s essentially the same thing that happened when Coca Cola launched their commercial with “America the Beautiful” sung in different languages, people cried foul (wrongfully so) because “we’re American and Americans speak English”. People are now talking all about Budweiser in the same way, it may be negative, but all PR is good PR right? – End of soap box, but I did enjoy your article and completely agree.

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    • John: Thanks for reading! Budweiser is definitely getting lots of free PR. I thought long and hard before writing this article about the possibility of Budweiser benefiting from the fallout, as there can sometimes be truth to the “all PR is good PR” adage. PR has the power to transcend advertising, for sure! Budweiser’s PR moves, post-third quarter commercial are to blatantly deny what they just did. Replies to the anti-macro/pro-micro tweets from Budweiser said things like, “We’re not anti-craft. Just pro-Bud”, and “We respect craft brewing. Beer is for all people.”
      Lies. That’s not at all the message your commercial delivered. My hope in writing this is to share that with people.
      Either stick to what you’re good at, Bud (and in turn accept loss of sales to the craft beer market year after year), or find a way to change and succeed. AB-InBev purchasing craft breweries says a lot about where the market is going.
      Budweiser set out in 1876 “to create the United States’ first truly national beer brand – brewed to be universally popular and transcend regional tastes,” as their website clearly states.
      And again, if a brand refuses to grow and change, they’re destined for failure. The post-Prohibition days of generic beer are gone. The unchanging Budweiser beer can’t hope to transcend regional tastes and be universally popular anymore with the boom in craft beer. Millennials are the future of the market, and millennials are adventurous people who appreciate honest brands, and they certainly don’t chase after brands that seek to be universally popular.
      In this case, I think Budweiser’s own post-commercial PR, pro-craft articles and the world of pro-craft social media are working together to bring Budweiser down!
      Thanks a bunch for sharing! Cheers!

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  2. Dear Janee,
    Thank you for taking the time to write this awesome article! We share our violent contempt for ab as well (we will not capitalize their initals; they deserve no such respect). The soil for craft beer evangelism is fertile… it’s people like you who preach the gospel of the individuality and art behind craft beer.

    Keep up the great work! And if you have a chance, become a follower at Belgian Beer Journal! We welcome your company…

    Cheers,
    Belgian Beer Journal

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  3. I don’t disagree that it’s a pretty lousy ad campaign on their part, one that is demeaning and insulting to craft beer and craft beer drinkers, but:

    “Budweiser is counting on people equating beechwood with the fantastic barrel aging flavors that can be found in craft beers.”

    Um, no they’re not. They have always touted beechwood aging as a method that results in a cleaner, crisper lager profile than their macro competitors. Which, it actually does.

    And yeah, they do have a very difficult task as brewers, and they deserve a lot of credit for what they do. To brew such an incredibly light, low-flavored beer in the volumes they do, where every single batch is blended, and have it be incredibly consistent time and time and time again, is nothing short of amazing. Their marketing folks might be idiots, but their brewers are among the best in the world.

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    • I agree that it really is amazing that they produce a consistent beer across the board. They do produce a very consistent, low-flavored beer. I don’t personally know any of their brewers, but I would respectfully disagree with calling them “among the best in the world”.
      One of the audiences they’re marketing to is new or future beer consumers. With the anti-hipster, anti-beer geek feel to this ad, I wouldn’t underestimate the imparting flavor connection with the touting of the beer being beechwood aged. Just my thoughts! Thanks for sharing yours! Cheers.

      Like

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