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Episode Four: St. Louis Cardinals
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Budweiser is coming back with another brash Super Bowl ad that celebrates its bigness. But instead of taking a shot at craft brewers, like it did last year, the King of Beers is taking a little dig at imported brews.
The 30-second spot continues the "Brewed the Hard Way" campaign that broke during last year's game and put a new stamp on Bud as a "macro" brew. The brewer released a 60-second version of the Super Bowl 50 ad today (above). The agency is Anomaly.
The ad, which is called "Not Backing Down," shows close-ups of the beer, its ingredients and its brewers, alongside boastful phrases in bold block lettering. One part of the ad shows a cargo vessel at sea as the words "Not Imported" flash by. Close-ups of the famous Clydesdales are shown with the words "Not Ponies." The horses, which have appeared in 26 previous Super Bowl ads, play a supporting role in this year's spot and take on a more assertive tone. In the last two Super Bowls, the horses mingled with cute puppies in ads that resembled Disney movies. This year's spot includes a close-up of thundering hooves and snorting nostrils.
"We are not a one-trick pony," said Brian Perkins, U.S. VP for the Budweiser brand. "You don't want to jump the shark and keep trotting out the same stuff every year."
The puppies got attention and won awards and views, he said. But "this new approach that we kicked off with 'Brewed the Hard Way' has a much higher correlation to selling beer than anything we've tried in the last few years, which is why we are going all-in on that approach," he said. The campaign has "delivered the best results on the brand we've seen in 14 years. So we now have a high level of confidence about this new tone of voice."
Last year's ad differentiated Bud from craft beers by declaring that it is "brewed for drinking, not dissecting." It continued: "Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale, we'll be brewing us some golden suds."
The line generated an outcry from some craft beer enthusiasts, including accusations of hypocrisy because Anheuser-Busch InBev has been an aggressive acquirer of craft brewers in recent years.
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A-B InBev also has some imported beers in its portfolio, such as Stella Artois, which sets the brewer up for similar criticism this year.
"There will always be people that want to see the negative. That's just a fact," Mr. Perkins said. "Even though as a portfolio we import beers, we do, I'm not here to make an ad about the portfolio. I'm here to make an ad about Budweiser." And Bud, he said, is "brewed proudly in the U.S. in 12 breweries around the country."
The ad also includes the line "Not a fruit cup," as it shows a Bud drinker flicking away a lemon garnish. "When you order a Budweiser, order it neat," Mr. Perkins said. "It doesn't need garnish."
"These ads, like it or not, are us telling it like it is and us being us," he said. "And I like that we have the confidence to do that, and accept that, you know, maybe we are not for everyone."
And Bud, which is the third largest brew in the U.S., is big. Its bigness underpins the campaign. The approach comes as smaller brands have made gains in a variety of food and beverage categories, as more consumers seek out niche brands.
"We don't accept that big must be inferior, which I think is and has been a prevailing discourse in a lot of categories, not just beer," Mr. Perkins said. "We are big because we are widely enjoyed," he added. "We should be proud of that."
Budweiser earlier this week released another Super Bowl spot that stars Helen Mirren lecturing drinkers not to drink and drive.