Because I watched NBC’s free live stream of the Super Bowl last night, I wasn’t privy to the plethora of advertisements that much of the United States tune in to see. I was equally as shocked to see the uproar about Anheuser Busch’s “Pro-Macro Beer” Budweiser ad. Usually Anheuser Busch treats us to puppies and horses, pulling on our heart strings, helping us temporarily forgetting about the brewing behemoth they are, but this year, their marketing department had different plans.
I like dissecting the beer I’m drinking. Call me a hipster, beer nerd, whatever. Yes, it’s made for drinking (duh), but it’s also made for enjoying. I like fussing over what painstakingly goes into crafting the amazing craft beer I drink. And, sadly, I always forget to bring my “Buds” to drink.
In what is being seen as a huge shot across the bow of the craft beer market, Budweiser’s advertisement, in my eyes, initially seemed a bit hypocritical in it’s delivery. Big words talk about not “fussing” over their beer, and then they turn around and fuss about how they’re the only ones using a “beechwood aging” process to smooth out their beer. They’re not barrel aging the beer to draw flavor out of the wood, so what’s the fuss? From what I can discern from some quick Googling, the beechwood addition provides extra surface area for the yeast to cling to, helping create a natural filter. It’s not like a bourbon barrel aged beer that adds complexities and nuances that weren’t there in the first place. But, I digress, I’m dissecting the beer again. Sorry Budweiser.
That’s the first part of the ad that seems a bit disjointed to me. The bigger controversy stemming from this ad is their direct call out of odd fruit beers, and of course the statement proclaiming themselves “Proudly Macro.” Go to any Budweiser supported event center and you’ll see Bud Light “margaritas” filled with tons of fake fruit flavors(and tons of sugar)…but that’s beside the point, right?
Honestly, when I first saw it, the advertisement almost came across as a parody. It’s no secret that macro beer is losing market share to craft beer year in and year out, so why not take pot shots at the David to your Goliath. The most recent strategy that macro breweries are using to combat this is to just buy up the competition. With acquisitions of Goose Island, Ten Barrel and most recently Elysian Brewing, Anheuser Busch is attempting a land-grab technique, but it almost seems too little too late. There’s rumblings about who may be the next to fall, and fall they will, but I see this advertisement as a catalyst that may slow things a little.
Acquisitions aside, their marketing team needs to be on the same page … they most certainly didn’t completely look through the (newly) expanded portfolio when putting together this year’s Super Bowl Spot. With their dig at “pumpkin peach ales” they forgot to notice that Elysian Brewing, as a part of their seasonal pumpkin beer party, brews a Pecan Peach Pumpkin Amber. Yes, it is a beer that is brewed specifically for a seasonal event, but it was all a little too perfect. It was almost as classless as the fight at the end of the big game.
Untappd, the leading social beer app, saw a major influx of people checking in drinking Gourdgia on My Mind, Elysian Brewing’s Pumpkin Peach amber. Of the 521 check ins, 250 occurred this month. It continues today, with some check-ins as recent as 9 minutes ago. Considering the beer hasn’t been brewed since the fall, it’s pretty intriguing. It may have been the biggest fake-check-in event I’ve seen with tons of people jumping on the bandwagon, but it also indicates how volatile this craft vs macro thing is.
It will be interesting how things shake out in the coming days, but I won’t be surprised if more analysis and controversy gets pushed out. With the old saying that “all press is good press” it seems like Anheuser Busch made sure they’re in our heads. They even resurrected their old tagline: “This Bud’s for you.” Sorry A-B, but I’m pretty sure it’s not for me.
Here’s the video if you haven’t seen it.