Anheuser-Busch Spends Big on Super Bowl LIII

Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams will mark Anheuser-Busch InBev’s biggest ever bet made on the big game.

The world’s largest beer company, which has exclusive alcohol category advertising rights during the game, has purchased 6-minutes, 25-seconds of airtime for five of its brands — Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Stella Artois and Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer.

CBS is reportedly charging a record $5.25 million for 30-second commercials during Sunday’s game. It’s unclear exactly how much A-B is spending on its Super Bowl ads, but CNBC reports it could be as much as $34 million. In addition to its 5-minutes, 45-seconds of commercials, A-B has also purchased 40 seconds of airtime during actual gameplay in the form of on-screen graphics and cut-ins.

A-B’s eight commercials include four 45-second, three 30-second and one 60-second ads for flagship beer brands Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra and Stella Artois as well as line extensions Budweiser Copper Lager and Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, AdWeek reported. The company will also invest in the first ad for a hard seltzer brand, Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer.

Anheuser-Busch InBev CMO Marcel Marcondes told AdWeek that the ads are part of the company’s strategy to “elevate beer,” with the spots focusing on quality, premiumization and innovation.

The ads come as A-B flagship brands Budweiser and Bud Light continue to shed millions of barrels annually, and as the beer category loses market share to wine and spirits. Still, Super Bowl week has been an important opportunity for beer companies to drive sales during a traditionally slow early part of the year.

In a press release, National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) chief economist Lester Jones said tens of millions of cases of beer will be sold to retailers.

“The Super Bowl marks the first big occasion for beer distributors in 2019 and helps set the stage for the upcoming year,” he said in the release.

Citing data from Fintech, the NBWA said beer sales in Boston and Philadelphia, the home cities of last year’s Super Bowl teams, increased by 19 percent and 17 percent, respectively, across on- and off-premise accounts. The organization added that volume sales were up 10 percent in bars, taverns and restaurants in both markets.

Additionally, the NBWA and FinTech said the Super Bowl ranked as the seventh biggest beer occasion in the U.S. last year.

Meanwhile, national trade group the Beer Institute released the results of a recent survey that found that 76 percent of Americans who plan to watch this year’s Super Bowl also plan to drink beer. The nationwide survey of legal drinking age consumers, conducted by Quadrant Strategies from January 21-25, also found that 78 percent of Super Bowl watchers said beer will be an important part of their gameday experience.

Many of those beer drinkers will be women. According to a recent Nielsen report, 38 percent of female football fans plan to drink beer during the game. Female consumers made up about half — around 47 percent — of Super Bowl viewership between 2014 to 2018.

Nevertheless, many of those eyes will be on A-B’s commercials, including a Stella Artois ad that brings together two pop culture icons to shun spirits in favor of beer.

The Stella ad, “Change Up the Usual,” features Jeff Bridges’ The Dude from The Big Lebowski and Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City as part of its partnership with nonprofit group Water.org, which works to bring clean drinking water to developing nations. Those characters both choose Stella over their go-to drinks, a White Russian and a cosmopolitan, respectively.

The 2019 Super Bowl also marks the third consecutive year in which low-calorie beer Michelob Ultra will be featured during a commercial break. The 30-second “Robots” ad features a futuristic android dominating humans in workouts, only to realize that it cannot enjoy a post-workout beer with friends. In an effort to attract Latino consumers, the ad also features a brief cameo from Colombian singer Maluma.

In a first from a Super Bowl advertiser, A-B’s Michelob Ultra line extension, Pure Gold, will feature an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) experience. In “The Pure Experience,” actress Zoe Kravitz sits at a desk in a serene Hawaiian setting, whispers about the 85-calorie organic beer into a microphone, which amplifies every sound, from the pop of cap, to the clinking of her nails on the bottle, to the fizzy pour of the beer into a glass.

In another first, A-B will market its rebranded Bon & Viv hard seltzer brand. The commercial, “The Pitch,” features two mermaids, who claim to be the mythical founders of the brand (co-founder Nick Shields still works for A-B), who successfully sell four sharks on the brand in a nod to the TV show “Shark Tank.”

In Nielsen’s Super Bowl report, the firm notes that hard seltzer sales around the Super Bowl have more than tripled since 2016, growing to 1.3 percent in 2018.

Meanwhile, after being absent from the big game last year, the iconic Budweiser clydesdales are back in “Wind Never Felt Better.” The ad features a Dalmatian and a soundtrack of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and highlights that the company’s flagship brand is now brewed with 100 percent renewable electricity from wind power.

Finally, A-B is also buying local advertising spots for its Natural Light economy brand in five cities — Columbia, South Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi; Little Rock, Arkansas; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia — hit hardest by student loan debt. In a partnership with the Cash App, A-B is giving away $53,001 to 151 consumers ($351 each) who share their Super Bowl experience on social media as part of its “College Debt Relief Program.” The average monthly student loan debt payment is $351, A-B noted in a press release.

There are more A-B commercials to come, as the company has yet to unveil ads for its Jim Beam co-branded Budweiser Copper Lager and two Bud Light commercials.

Goose Island, a Chicago-based craft brewery owned by A-B, is also running “Big Game” digital spots for its Next Coast IPA. The ads feature Goose Island co-founder Greg Hall and president Todd Ahsmann.

While A-B will be capturing the attention of millions of viewers, other U.S. craft brewers are attempting to get in on the action.

Boston Beer Company plans to release “Too Old, Too Slow, Still Here,” a farmhouse double New England IPA at its Boston taproom on January 31. The name of the beer is in reference of criticism of the Patriots, namely, quarterback Tom Brady (the artwork on the can features a goat-headed man in a jersey gripping a football like a quarterback).

Boston Beer will only sell 199 crowlers — in honor of Brady being selected 199th in the 2000 NFL Draft — of the 7.8 percent ABV beer at its taproom, where the beer will also be served on draft.

“We’re behind New England Patriots 100 percent as they head to the big game,” Boston Beer founder Jim Koch said in a press release. “The best way we could think to honor the team was to brew a beer for fans that can’t make it to Atlanta and a New England style Double IPA with as much spirit as the players felt like the perfect beer. We haven’t doubted them all season and can’t wait to watch them on Sunday with a beer in hand that honors their hard work.”

Meanwhile, an Atlanta craft brewery that made a splash at Mercedes-Benz Stadium by offering an affordable beer will remain on the menu on gameday. Wild Heaven Brewing Company’s ATL Pale Ale, which was first offered at around 20 taps during the Atlanta Falcons’ season, will be sold in 12 oz. pours for $5 and 20 oz. pours for $7 at the stadium.

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