Miller Lite’s newest jab at Michelob Ultra takes aim at its competitor’s brand positioning as a fitness brew.
A new campaign from the Molson Coors-owned brew includes ads that start out by showing people in athletic pursuits, such as biking up a mountain or sweating in an outdoor fitness class. They then douse themselves in a beer labeled “extremely light beer.” A voiceover declares that “light beer shouldn't taste like water—it should taste like beer,” as the scene shifts to drinkers enjoying Miller Lites at a bar.
The ads, from DDB Chicago, do not mention Michelob Ultra by name, but the implication is clear: Ultra has long blended beer and fitness imagery into its campaigns, dating back to the days when its ads featured cyclist Lance Armstrong living the “Ultra Life.”
“We really leaned into that challenger mindset. We’ve been taking swings for a while at Michelob Ultra,” said Elizabeth Hitch, senior director of marketing for Miller Lite. The campaign goal is to portray Miller Lite as “the light beer for people who really love the taste of beer,” she said.
Those swings have included digs at Ultra’s low-calorie positioning with ads pointing out that Lite has only one more calorie than Ultra—96 calories versus 95. During the 2021 Super Bowl, for instance, Lite ran newspaper ads promoting a ridiculously long URL that it said took one-calorie worth of energy to type.
The new campaign attempts to skewer Ultra’s very successful, and long-running, association with sports that of late has included ads starring top-notch athletes including tennis great Serena Williams and NBA star Jimmy Butler.
Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned Ultra finished 2021 as the nation’s third-largest beer as shipments grew 9.5%, while Lite came in fourth after 3.2% growth, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights.
Lite’s new campaign feeds into Molson Coors’ strategy of keeping its Miller brands solely focused on beer, as other big names in beer sell line extensions that include products such as hard seltzers, as is the case for both Bud Light and Michelob Ultra.
Molson Coors last year dramatized Miller's-beer only approach with a video for Miller Genuine Draft that showed it “launching” a seltzer—by strapping competitive brands onto a rocket and hurling it into oblivion.
“There is crazy fragmentation we have seen from light beer brands,” Hitch said. “Miller Lite is going to always stick to what we do best, which is beer.”
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The new campaign includes a TV buy during tonight’s NCAA men’s basketball championship game on TBS, as well as investments in podcasts, radio, PR and influencers. “We are going really really big with this camping to make sure a lot of people see it,” Hitch said.
There is also a stunt: Lite will promote limited-edition “beer drops” that the brand describes as a “liquid taste enhancer that adds more beer taste to other light beers.”
The drops will be available for purchase for $4.07 at a special website until supplies last. The stunt is timed with National Beer Day on April 7, which marks the passage of the Cullen-Harrison Act, which Congress approved in 1933 allowing for so-called 3.2% beer sales during Prohibition (essentially ending Prohibition early for beer).
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