Anheuser-Busch InBev’s first-ever corporate Super Bowl ad is less about the brewing giant’s individual brands—and more about the role that beer in general plays in people’s lives.
The 60-second ad—which is from Wieden+Kennedy and produced by David Fincher—features a series of scenes in which people share beers during moments that range from an outdoor wedding spoiled by rain to gathering around an airport bar with strangers after a flight has been delayed. In one scene, a woman invites a coworker out for a beer as he’s packing up his belongings, presumably because he was fired or laid off.
The spot, called “Let’s Grab a Beer,” shows several social gatherings in which no masks are worn and people are close together—an odd sight at a time when the mere act of grabbing beers with friends seems so out of reach for many people in the middle of the pandemic. But the brewer is trying to foreshadow a time when small social gatherings won’t be interrupted by social distancing. A voiceover near the end of the ad refers to a time “when we are back.”
A spokeswoman said the spot is “a timeless ad taking place either in past memories or a hoped-for future.” The brewer gave a similar response when asked about the lack of masks in its Bud Light Super Bowl spot, which was released on Tuesday.
The ad strikes an almost melancholy tone—a departure from the typical high-energy social occasions featured in beer ads. And AB InBev’s brands—which include Michelob Ultra, Budweiser and Stella Artois—are hardly noticed, limited to a supporting role in the hands of the people in the spot.
Marcel Marcondes, the brewer’s chief marketing officer, in a statement said the ad’s insight “comes straight out of real life as so many people are just longing to be together with their friends and family again. So, while the spot shows many of the brands in our portfolio in different situations, the beer is not the hero of the ad. The people are.”
Karl Lieberman, chief creative officer at Wieden+Kennedy, added: “Right now, the everyday, seemingly mundane act of sitting down and having a beer with a friend feels more missed, more important and more sacred than ever. And while the big events in our lives like graduations and birthdays are massively important, many of the most profound conversations and experiences we have actually happen on a random Tuesday over a beer. With the help of David Fincher's vision, we wanted to bring that notion to life and craft a beautiful love letter to beer that showed how powerful it is when we can come together for each other.”
While AB InBev—which holds exclusive alcohol ad rights for the game—is spending plenty of money touting its own brands, including two ads for Bud Light and two for Michelob Ultra, the presence of a spot that markets the beer category more generally will likely be welcomed by its competitors. It comes at a time when beer continues to fight for market share with spirits and wine.
Marcondes stated that “this ad is really about the role the beer category plays in people’s lives. Now more than ever, it’s become clear just how much people miss getting together. As the leader in the beer category, we felt the responsibility to tell that story.”
It is not the first time that Anheuser-Busch pushed the total beer category in the Super Bowl. The brewer in 2006 turned over one of its Big Game spots for an industry-wide effort that included the Beer Institute, a beer trade group. The spot, called “Here’s to Beer,” showed people toasting with brews in different languages. But the broader campaign faltered after its leader, Anheuser-Busch, was unable to gain cooperation from its competitors, including Miller, which suspected the Budweiser maker’s motives.
This year’s ad comes two years after Bud Light ran three Super Bowl ads as part of its ongoing medieval "Dilly Dilly" campaign that called out Coors Light and Miller Lite for using corn syrup. That sparked an intense legal battle between MillerCoors and AB InBev that spilled over into a PR war between the nation’s two largest brewers.