Long before Anheuser-Busch became the exclusive beer sponsor of the Super Bowl, beer brands including Schlitz, Stroh's, Pabst and Miller bought ad time in the game.
As the Steelers and the Coyboys took the field for Super Bowl XIII in 1979, Miller Lite was less than five years old and trying to expand interest in the novel category of low-calorie beer -- Bud Light didn't even exist yet.
First it had to convince consumers that "low-calorie" didn't mean "cut with water," as the Ad Age Encyclopedia entry on Miller Lite recalled:
Unable to use active professional athletes in ads for alcoholic beverages, M-E [McCann-Erickson] signed 40-ish former stars such as retired New York Jets and Super Bowl veteran Matt Snell for a campaign that showed athletes in a locker room talking up the brand. In one mid-1970s McCann spot, National Football League great Bubba Smith ripped the top off a Lite can.
With McCann's "Tastes great, less filling" campaign, health-conscious consumers were reassured that they need not feel guilty about loading up on low-alcohol brews that happened to taste good. Miller greatly increased its ad spending to twice the per-barrel industry average. Not only did the company see its share almost triple, but profits rose almost fivefold, from $6 million to $29 million. The "tastes great, less filling" tagline endured for 17 years.
Here Miller's retired athletes are former Eagles quarterback Norm Snead, former Cardinals quarterback Charley Johnson and former Steelers QB Terry Hanratty. (Hanratty's team wound up winning Super Bowl XIII.)
Inspired by the success of Miller Light, Anheuser-Busch would answer first with Natural Light and then in 1982, more successfully, with Bud Light.
The brands went head-to-head in the 1985 Super Bowl, where Rodney Dangerfield made Miller Lite's case ("Respect") and Bud Light tried to dislodge Miller Lite's place as the default light beer ("Give Me a Light").
The Lite All Stars, as the brand called its endorsers, also included Baseball Hall of Fame member Mickey Mantle, former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier, former Celtics coach Red Auerbach, former Yankees manager Billy Martin, mystery writer Mickey Spillane and Super Bowl-winning Raiders coach John Madden, who appeared in Miller Lite's big-game spot in 1984 ("Train"). Many of the ads were directed by Bob Giraldi.
Miller Brewing also used Super Bowl XIII to advertise its Lowenbrau brand ("Skiing").
BRAND: Miller Lite