Craft beer supporters have gone on the attack against Anheuser-Busch for airing a polarizing Budweiser Super Bowl ad championing the "macro" brew, and on Monday night MillerCoors joined the battle.
"We believe each and every style of beer is worth fussing over," said MillerCoors, the maker of big brands like Miller Lite and Coors Light, in an image accompanying a tweet that said, "we stand for beer."
"Quality isn't something that belongs to a single style of beer or a single brewer," the manifesto in the image
The tweet is a direct attack on the Budweiser commercial, which declared that Bud is "brewed for drinking, not dissecting," and not to be "fussed over," as the ad showed three men made to look like beer snobs. The spot also declared: "Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale, we'll be brewing us some golden suds."
The MillerCoors tweet is an escalation in the marketing battle between the nation's two largest brewers. While the two marketers have competed viciously behind the scenes, they have for the most part avoided direct public criticism in recent years. But MillerCoors clearly sees an opportunity to pile on A-B InBev in the wake of the Super Bowl spot.
A-B InBev could not be reached for comment on Monday evening.
In an interview with Ad Age before Bud's Super Bowl commercial ran, Budweiser VP Brian Perkins said the ad was not meant to criticize competitors or craft beer in general, noting that "the only other beer that we reference in the spot is a fabricated, ludicrous flavor combination of pumpkin peach ale." He pointed out that much of the spot talks in a "positive, affirming way about Budweiser quality," such as its beechwood aging process.
But some craft beer supporters accused A-B InBev of hypocrisy, noting that it has been an aggressive acquirer of craft brewers. That includes a planned acquisition of Elysian Brewing of Seattle in a deal announced in late January. A-B InBev's critics have also seized on the fact that Elysian actually makes a peach pecan pumpkin beer that is similar to the brew that Bud mocked in the ad.
"Honestly, how devastating is that for the Elysian brewing team? Your owners think your customers are pretentious hipsters. These are the people who own your business," wrote Jim Vorel in Paste Magazine, the pop-culture publication.
Meanwhile, craft brewer Abita Brewing of Louisiana on Monday posted a video on YouTube mocking Bud's spot.
Elysian Brewing, for its part, was already fending off criticism from craft beer supporters over its acquisition by the giant A-B InBev.
Elysian co-founder Dick Cantwell told the Chicago Tribune email interview that "I find it kind of incredible that ABI would be so tone-deaf as to pretty directly (even if unwittingly) call out one of the breweries they have recently acquired, even as that brewery is dealing with the anger of the beer community in reaction to the sale."
"It doesn't make our job any easier, and it certainly doesn't make me feel any better about a deal I didn't even want to happen," he added, according to the Tribune. "It's made a difficult situation even more painful."
A-B InBev's newly aggressive approach seeks to return the spotlight to Budweiser's liquid credentials and heritage after years of running more emotional ads that encouraged drinkers to "Grab Some Buds." The new campaign, which marks the return of the old "This Bud's For You" tagline, seeks to position Bud proudly as a "macro beer." Mr. Perkins said in the recent Ad Age interview that "I don't think anyone has really talked about macro beer before with pride."
The good news for A-B InBev is that some early signs show the ad might be working. "Many consumers shared the sentiment that this ad made them want to have a Budweiser -- even those who rarely drink beer," ad-scoring company Ace Metrix told Beer Business Daily, citing "a bevy of real responses from among their 500+ pool of consumers."
Additionally, one A-B InBev distributor told Beer Business Daily that "it's about time the ABI tries to change the craft narrative. If the craft snobs are offended at least they know how traditional (probably old) drinkers have felt when they spout their drivel about their craft being so great." But another distributor told the trade publication that the ad "went a little too far. Why alienate anybody? Why pick a fight with the hottest alcohol beverage segment and its consumers?"