Bud Light opened up a new front in the beer wars Sunday with three Super Bowl ads that criticize Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup.
The ads, by Wieden & Kennedy New York, are set in the "Game of Thrones"-inspired medieval world Bud Light has been using since April 2017. The first is a 60-second spot that ran in the first quarter called "Special Delivery." It shows a giant barrel of corn syrup being delivered to the Bud Light kingdom before it's diverted to castles depicted overseen by Coors Light and Miller Lite. At the end of the spot Bud Light declares it's "brewed with no corn syrup." Bud Light is running two other ads during the game with the same theme.
The brand followed it up with a Game of Thrones spot in partnership with HBO.
Miller Lite and Coors Light both confirm using corn syrup in the form of dextrose at a website that lists ingredients for all of the brewers' brands.
It's unusual for a bigger brand to target two smaller ones; typically, it's the smaller challenger brands that try to tweak the big guy.
Bud Light remains the largest beer brand in the U.S. by far, but it has been in a steady decline. Its shipments fell 6.7 percent last year, its largest annual percentage decline on record, according to Beer Marketer's Insights. Coors Light, the nation's second-largest beer, dropped 6.2 percent, while No. 3 Miller Lite fell 3.8 percent.
Miller Lite has been consistently attacking Bud Light by name since late 2016, when it began claiming it has "more taste and half the carbs" than its larger competitor. Miller Lite has 3.2 grams of carbs per 12-ounce serving and 96 calories. Bud Light has 6.6 grams of carbs and 110 calories.
Perhaps knowing what was coming, Miller Lite tried to pre-empt Bud Light's Super Bowl moves this weekend on Twitter, once again calling out the carb difference.
Bud Light's Super Bowl ads come after the brew in January began running ads touting new ingredient labels on its packaging that closely resemble the Food and Drug Administration-mandated labels for packaged foods. It lists water, barley, rice and hops as Bud Light's ingredients.
Asked about the decision to take on its competition by name in the Super Bowl ad, Bud Light VP Andy Goeler said in an interview Sunday that "as the lead brand in the industry this is something that's good for beer. It's good for us, the lead brand, to make a bold move like this." He added: "Bringing ingredient transparency we think is elevating the standards…here is what is in our beer, in Bud Light, and here is what is not in Bud Light"