Super Bowl

Throwback Thursday: Return to a Time When the Super Bowl Had Beer Wars

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From the files of the Super Bowl Ad Archive. Previously: You Bought a Super Bowl Ad for What?

Many Super Bowl viewers have never seen an in-game ad for a beer that didn't belong to Anheuser-Busch InBev, unless it was one of the clever end-runs by rivals like Miller High Life ("One-Second Ads") or Heineken ("Brad Pitt") using local buys.

AB long ago locked up the exclusive rights to advertise beer during Super Bowls from each of the networks that rotate the game. Over the years it has used that advantage to go big with campaigns including "Bud Bowl" and the swampland series that began with "Frogs"; to introduce line extensions such as Becks Sapphire and Budweiser Black Crown; and to win Budweiser more USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter popularity contests than any brand of any kind.

But before all that, the Super Bowl's beer selection had a lot more taps.

There was Schlitz back in Super Bowl III with this ad out of Leo Burnett, "A Moment":

Today Lowenbrau is part of AB InBev, but it wasn't in 1979 when it used its hit jingle "Let It Be Lowenbrau" for a Super bowl ad. (The song was popular enough to released as a single, a la Coca-Cola's theme from "Hilltop").

Pabst Blue Ribbon and Miller Lite Faced off in 1981, with Pabst's "Spirit" going up against Miller spots including one starring Eddie Rabbit during Super Bowl XV:

(We're still seeking a copy of Schlitz's live blind taste-off during the 1981 Super Bowl, an epic marketing stunt not since replicated.)

Miller Lite made multiple appearances, including in 1985 with this Rodney Dangerfield classic:

But Dangerfield was squaring off in 1985 against Bud Light ads such as this memorable spot:

The era came to end once Anheuser Busch began striking exclusivity pacts with Super Bowl broadcasters for the 1989 game. Super Bowl LI in February will mark the 29th straight year the marketer has had its category to itself.

For more on the commercial wars on advertising's largest stage, check out the Super Bowl Ad Archive.