The Cup -- awarded by the Brewers Association -- goes to the top beers in myriad categories every other year. Miller Lite's success there -- it won "best American-style light lager" in 1996, 1998, 2002 and 2006 -- has been central to its efforts of late to position itself as "the ultimate light beer." (The beer's cheaper-than-imports price tag and low-carb count are the other pillars of that claim.)
One ad aired in heavy rotation during March's NCAA basketball tournament swapped Lite bottles for trophy cups. A recent packaging redesign put Miller Lite's World Beer Cup trophies on its neck label. And an earlier spot likened the competition to an "Olympiad for beer" while bowing to its judges as "some of the most sophisticated palates on the planet."
The peril of marketing a product around any given contest or accolade is, of course, that critics can change their minds and accolades can be fleeting. And on Saturday those same "sophisticated palates" named Pabst Brewing Co.'s Old Milwaukee Light the best American-style light lager. Pabst's Lone Star Light came in second, and Anheuser-Busch's Natural Light took third -- leaving Miller Lite out of the running.
A Miller spokesman said coming in behind sub-premium-priced brews like Natty Light and Old Milwaukee wouldn't dissuade it from continuing to emphasize its past WBC successes in ads and on its label. "Four Gold Cup awards is a very significant achievement," said the spokesman. "Our positioning as the 'ultimate light beer' will not change."