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Anheuser-Busch Says Super Bowl Beer Ads Will Get Back to Basics

Variety logo Variety 1/18/2017 Brian Steinberg
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Anheuser-Busch will get rid of the slapstick antics and celebrity endorsements that have long been the hallmarks of its Super Bowl commercials in favor of a back-to-basics approach for some of its best known beer brands.

“Do not expect celebrities. Do not expect epic things,” said Marcel Marcondes, vice president of marketing at Anheuser-Busch, in remarks delivered at a media briefing Tuesday. The company is expected to use at least three minutes of commercial time during Fox’s February 5th broadcast of Super Bowl LI. Instead, Marcondes, said, consumers want “no bullshit” and “brands that stand for something strong.”

The brewer has been one of the Super Bowl’s most durable sponsors, having spent more than $520 million on the event over the past 35 years, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. And the company serves as a sort of bellwether for the game: the tone it establishes tends to be the one that others follow. Fox has been seeking more than $5 million for a 30-second spot, but Anheuser’s years-long sponsorship deal behind the Super Bowl means it tends to pay a lower rate.

Super Bowl spots for Budwieser and Bud Light tend to get people talking. Last year, Anheuser tapped comedians Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen for Bud Light commercials tied to the coming presidential election, and dispatched Helen Mirren to give a minute-long talk on the dangers of drunk driving. In years past, Anheuser used frat-boy humor to make its point, like spots in 2004 that made use of a crotch-biting dog and a flatulent horse. The company’s stately Clydesdales have been utilized to pay tribute to America and its heroes.

Now, the company wants to get customers to think. Anheuser says it will deliver a clear message about four of its longstanding brands – Budwieser, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra and Busch – as consumers have hundreds of different beers and alcoholic beverages from which to choose. “We have seen signs of consumers being overwhelmed,” Marcondes said “We are talking about thousands and thousands of beer brands.”

It’s no secret competition from craft beers, as well as consumers’ broadening interest in wine and spirits, have posed new challenges for Anheuser. In 2015, the company ran a Super Bowl ad lampooning consumers’ yen for “pumpkin peach ale.” Last year, Anheuser allocated some of its Super Bowl inventory to Shock Top, a Belgian White that had some of the marketing bravado of an entrepreneurial upstart.

The company will unveil a new tag line for its famous Bud Light that will emphasize the fun moments the beverage can foster among friends.  The Super Bowl commercials, crafted by agency Wieden + Kennedy, will tout Bud Light as being “Famous Among Friends,” and portray it as something that helps spark great social moments.  Meanwhile, ads for Budweiser, devised by Anomaly, will tout its history, and evoke the tale of co-founder Adolphus Busch, who worked hard to attain his version of the American Dream. Viewers are likely to see at least an appearance by the company’s famous Clydesdales, though they will not be the star of the spots.

The brewer will shine a spotlight on Michelob Ultra for the second year in a row, and tout the brew as something for people with an active lifestyle. The campaign, created by FCB Chicago, will continue to use the slogan “Brewed For Those Who Go The Extra Mile.”

Busch, a “value” beer, will make its first ad appearance in the Super Bowl, even though it has been part of the Anheuser product line for decades. The new campaign, made by Deutsch, is expected to lend a boost to a product that Marcondes said the company has “seen a lift in brand performance” in recent months, and wants to see if a Super Bowl appearance can lend some oomph to sales.

The company expects to adhere to its new philosophy for several months to come, said Marcondes, trying to identify a specific use or fit for each product. But the new efforts won’t keep a recent marketing initiative from returning. Anheuser intends this year to once again issue bottle of Budweiser with labels that simply read “America,” an effort that ties the beer to its roots, the executive suggested.

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