Brewers, Distributors Prepare for Super Bowl Week Sales

As Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles unfolds on the field, Anheuser-Busch InBev will be attempting to capture viewers’ attention by running six ads during the commercial breaks.

The world’s largest beer company, which has exclusive alcohol category advertising rights during the game, has purchased airtime for four of its brands — Bud Light, Budweiser, Michelob Ultra and Stella Artois. That time isn’t coming cheap, either. According to AdWeek, some of the 30-second commercials during Sunday’s game will cost more than $5 million.

But before the ads air, the broader beer industry is preparing for what has historically been an important week for sales. January and February are traditionally slower months for beer consumption, but the week leading up to the Super Bowl is usually a profitable period for beer makers and distributors alike.

According to the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), the home cities of the teams playing Sunday can expect a spike in beer sales.

“Beer distributors and retailers serving the local markets in Philadelphia and Boston can expect to see a boost in sales as fans gather to cheer on their home teams at bars, restaurants and at home,” NBWA chief economist Lester Jones said via a press release.

Citing data from Fintech InfoSource, the NBWA said beer sales in Boston and Atlanta, the home cities of last year’s Super Bowl teams, increased by 15 and 19 percent, respectively, at on- and off-premise accounts. The organization added that volume sales were up 10 percent in bars, taverns and restaurants in both markets.

And beer wholesalers are working hard to fill store shelves and keep taps flowing. Scott Adams, vice president of sales for Massachusetts-based Burke Distributing, told Brewbound that beer sales will increase about 6 to 8 percent during Super Bowl week.

“Historically, January and February in Massachusetts are two of the slowest months of the year,” he said. “But with the Patriots in the playoffs and the Super Bowl, it’s increased our business.”

Speaking to Brewbound, Bill Lenahan, director of sales and marketing for Quality Beverage, called Super Bowl week “solid.” However, he added that it’s harder to gauge how much of a difference in business the week means when the Patriots are making deep runs in the playoffs and frequently appearing in the Super Bowl.

“We’ve become accustomed to them being in it and having that return year over year,” he said. “It’s more significant for us being a host wholesaler to Gillette [Stadium], and when they don’t get those home playoff games, obviously we see a huge hurt on volume.”

Lenahan added that business will “fall off the cliff” the week after the Super Bowl.

Drizly, a Boston-based e-commerce alcohol delivery platform, reported that 47 percent of consumers said they preferred drinking local craft beer during the game. However, only one craft beer — Lagunitas IPA — was among Drizly’s most ordered items in Boston during last year’s game. The top three spots belonged to A-B brands — Bud Light, Budweiser and Stella Artois — followed by Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Coors Light.

Meanwhile, a handful of regional craft beer companies in New England and Pennsylvania have made friendly wagers on the game in an attempt to drum up some media attention.

Boston’s Harpoon Brewery and Philadelphia’s Yards Brewing Company made a bet in which the loser must pour the winner’s beer in their taproom for a day and staff members will be required to wear the winning team’s gear.

Similarly, Samuel Adams maker Boston Beer Company, along with Framingham, Massachusetts-based Jack’s Abby, have made their own side bet with Pennsylvania’s D.G. Yuengling & Son and Victory Brewing. The losing brewery must also don the winning team’s jerseys, colors and signature masks (eagle or goat). And throughout Super Bowl week, the taprooms of all four breweries will be collecting donations to help preserve the bald eagle or the Freedom Trail.

And if the Eagles pull off the upset, Philly drinkers could be in for some free beer courtesy of A-B.

In August, Philadelphia Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson promised that if “we win a Super Bowl, I’m giving out beer to everybody.” Bud Light seized on the opportunity and tweeted to Johnson: “Let’s make a bet. Win it all and the party is on us. Deal?”

Johnson reminded the brand of the bet with a “#neverforget” tweet in late November. Bud Light’s response, “Oh believe us, we haven’t forgotten.”

Minneapolis’ Truth Bar has its own free beer offer. A sign in the establishment’s window reads: “Eagles fans: Stop in and have a free beer thrown at you!”

Nevertheless, all eyes will be on the TV Sunday, and in turn A-B’s commercials. A-B has tapped a pair of celebrities for two of its ads.

Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt will be featured in two spots — called “The Perfect Fit” and “I Like Beer” for Michelob Ultra. 2018 is the second consecutive year in which the low-calorie beer will be featured during a break in the game.

Meanwhile, Matt Damon will appear in A-B’s 30-second ad for Stella Artois as part of the brand’s “Buy a Lady a Drink” campaign to support the actor’s nonprofit group, Water.org, which works to bring clean drinking water to developing nations. The last time Stella Artois was featured during a break in the game was in 2011.

For the first time since 2001, Budweiser’s iconic Clydesdale horses won’t be featured in a Super Bowl ad. Instead, the Budweiser ad will draw attention to A-B’s relief efforts to provide cans of clean drinking to disaster-affected cities across the U.S. Since 1988, A-B has provided more than 79 million cans of drinking water to disaster area, including Houston and south Florida last year.

After resurrecting Spuds MacKenzie last year, Bud Light’s medieval Dilly Dilly campaign will be featured in 30- and 60-second spots.

A-B is also buying local advertising spots for its Natural Light brand, which is offering current and former college students $1 million ($40,000 to 25 people) to help pay down their student loan debts.

A-B also released a video for its High End brand, Goose Island, in which president Todd Ahsmann and co-founder Greg Hall pitch the idea of the first Super Bowl ad for a “craft brewery.”

A pair of other booze makers are running a trick play, sneaking past A-B’s exclusivity by also buying local ads. Spoetzl Brewery is spending $1.2 million on a 30-second spot as part of the company’s “This is Shiner Country” campaign in Texas.

“For us, this is a big financial investment; we want to expand our message to reach as many Texans as we can and what better way to do that than by leveraging a Super Bowl spot with all of the incredible attention that it receives,” Gregor Mina, director of marketing for Spoetzl Brewery, said via a press release.

And Australian winemaker Yellow Tail has bought local ad time in 80 U.S. markets — up from 70 markets last year, according to USA Today.

“We’re not thrilled about the end run and we’re even less thrilled about how costly and cumbersome it is,” Tom Steffanci, president of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, U.S. importer and marketer of the Yellow Tail brand, told USA Today. “But there’s not much we can do about it.”

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