Anheuser-Busch InBev is poised to back Bud Light Platinum with a Super Bowl ad, pouring major money behind the new higher alcohol version of Light, the brewer's biggest beer launch in at least two years.
The brew, set to debut in early 2012, will contain 6% alcohol by volume and 137 calories, compared with 4.2% ABV and 110 calories for regular Bud Light, as Ad Age reported on Tuesday.
"There are opportunities for light beer to expand into new occasions, and we think Bud Light Platinum is the beer to take us there," Mike Sundet, senior director for Bud Light said in a statement Thursday. "Bud Light's ability to innovate and its social personality makes it the ideal brand to introduce Bud Light Platinum to a growing number of image-conscious beer drinkers."
AB InBev has not detailed its marketing plans for the beer. But the brewer told distributors at meeting this week in Dallas that the brand would be featured in a Super Bowl ad, according to a distributor who was at the meeting. The ad was also reported by beer trade publication Beer Business Daily, which noted that Platinum will "conduct national sampling events on New Year's Eve before rolling out nationally on Jan. 30."
AB InBev holds the exclusive beer advertising rights for the Super Bowl. Last Super Bowl the brewer ran five ads, including one each for Stella Artois and Budweiser and three for Bud Light, including two by Omnicom Group's DDB and one by St. Louis-based Cannonball. DDB and Bud Light have since parted ways and AB InBev is currently reviewing ad agencies for Light, so it is unclear who will get the Platinum Super Bowl ad.
Platinum is a bit of an unorthodox play for a mainstream light beer, which have traditionally been pushed for their refreshment and "sessionabilty" -- the idea that you can down more than a few and not be stumbling drunk. Still, as beers go these days, 6% ABV is hardly out of the ordinary, even tame by some standards. Fast-growing craft beers tend to have more alcohol, including popular brands like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (5.6%) and New Belgium Fat Tire (5.2% ABV), while other trendy crafts are at 10% or even higher. Budweiser has 5% ABV and 145 calories.
Platinum does not seem aimed at craft beer drinkers -- who tend to be more sophisticated drinkers into full-flavored beer experiences -- but rather at nighttime partiers. In its statement, AB InBev described the brew as having a "sweeter taste," providing drinkers "an upscale light beer option as a companion to their social agenda." The brew will be sold in special blue-glass bottles.
The launch comes as the struggling beer industry fights off increasing competition from spirits brands, which have gained share through new innovations and aggressive advertising that has appealed to millennials.
Platinum will replace Bud Light Golden Wheat, which is being discontinued after a pricey launch in 2009 that included a takeover of all national ad time during one Saturday Night Live episode. Wheat's launch was less successful than the other Light line extension, Bud Light Lime, which debuted in 2008, got off to a good start, but has since slowed.