Anheuser-Busch InBev will use three of its six Super Bowl ads to plug new brands Budweiser Black Crown and Beck's Sapphire, while returning the Clydesdales to a starring role in an ad for regular Bud.
The brewer will dedicate two 30-second spots, including the first ad shown during the game, to Black Crown, a higher-alcohol line extension positioned as a more upscale version of Bud geared toward nighttime drinking occasions. The strategy follows the same playbook as last year, when the brewer dedicated the first in-game ad to plug Bud Light Platinum, a high-alcohol line extension of Bud Light that hit stores last year.
"The Super Bowl gives you an unequal platform to generate awareness and we think using that [first ad] position for a new launch is a smart move," Paul Chibe, A-B InBev's VP for U.S. marketing, told Ad Age.
The brewer, which has exclusive beer advertising rights for the game, will use a total of four-and-a-half minutes of ad time this year, which equals the time bought last year. The two Black Crown ads are by Anomaly, which is also handling a 60-second spot for regular Budweiser. The ad, which is directed by Ridley Scott's son Jake Scott, was partially shot at Warm Springs Ranch, a breeding farm near Boonville, Mo., that is home to many of the brewer's iconic Clydesdales, which have long been used in Super Bowl spots.
The 30-second Sapphire spot, which will run sometime after halftime, is by Mother and will include the brand's "sleek, one of-a-kind black bottle, and features a surprise admirer that is mesmerized by its beauty," the brewer said. The brand is a line extension of Beck's that is brewed with "German Saphir aroma hops." Like Platinum and Black crown, Sapphire is 6% alcohol by volume, compared with 5% ABV for regular Budweiser and 4.2% for Bud Light. Sapphire's marketing -- which will include pop-up displays in spots such as Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills -- will "activate Beck's like a jewelry company would and treat it with the care like you would treat a jewel, like a sapphire," Mr. Chibe said.
Also planned are two 60-second ads for Bud Light by Translation that will continue the NFL-themed "Superstitous" campaign. The two spots are set in New Orleans and were directed by Samuel Bayer, who also directed the Black Crown ads.
The Clydesdales ad puts the horses front and center, which is a departure from the past two years, when they had more of a supporting role. The spot, called "Brotherhood," will chronicle "the bond a Clydesdale foal shares with his trainer" and provide a "new level of access" to the Clydesdales' early years, the brewer stated.
For years, internal debate has raged within the brewer's marketing department about just how successful the Clydesdales are at selling beer, one former A-B InBev marketing executive told Ad Age. One school of thought was that the Clydesdales "were more of a goodwill for our corporation but they weren't necessarily selling the brand Budweiser," this person said. "That philosophy was getting stronger and stronger every year when you have younger groups [of marketers] coming in and saying, I think the Clydesdales are for the older [drinker]."
This seems like more of a quandary lately, as A-B InBev seeks to sell the struggling Bud brand to millennials with music partnerships such as last year's "Made In America" concert and ads starring Jay-Z. Asked about the dilemma of speaking to two audiences at once, Mr. Chibe said: "We think that the Clydesdales spot will have special relevance for those people who have seen the Clydesdales and have more of an emotional connection just because of ... their age." But "that doesn't mean" the Clydesdales spot "from a value standpoint isn't going to work with millennials. Those values are universal and timeless."
Mr. Chibe referred to Black Crown as a "modern expression" of Budweiser. Two 15-second "teaser ads" for the brand will run during the NFC and AFC Championship game. One of the Super Bowl ads is expected to include a scene of a brewmaster saluting a group of American beer drinkers. The scene seems to be a reference to the brand's genesis as a small-batch, limited-edition beer that was originally made as part of "Project 12," in which brewmasters at 12 A-B InBev breweries created their own "tribute" beers.
But the Black Crown positioning appears to be as much -- if not more -- about making it an upscale beer for younger drinkers our at night, just like Platinum. While Platinum was widely seen as a success in its first year by lifting the fortunes of the Bud Light family, Black Crown might face a steeper challenge because Budweiser has been in a long-term decline in the U.S., even as it has had better luck globally, where the brewer has sought to make it an international brand along the lines of Coke. A-B InBev CEO Carlos Brito conceded on a recent earnings call that "Budweiser did not meet our expectations" during the quarter. But instead of blaming marketing, he suggested that the Bud Light line extensions stole attention from Budweiser, especially at the store level.
It is somewhat surprising that A-B InBev did not choose to plug Platinum during the Super Bowl again this year. However, the brand, whose agency is Translation, is likely to get more airtime soon -- perhaps during an upcoming winter awards show such as the Grammys.