For the first time in decades, Anheuser-Busch will not have a Budweiser ad in the most commercialized sporting event on the planet, but don’t worry, it’s still spending lots of cash for four minutes on other brands during Super Bowl LV. The money from A-B’s pulled Budweiser spot (at least some of the reportedly over $5 million) is being directed to public awareness campaigns about the importance of Covid-19 vaccinations. A-B is partnering with Ad Council (a non-profit that promotes and produces public service announcements — classics like McGruff) and Covid Collaborative’s Vaccine Education Initiative.
A-B has also released a video this week via digital platforms narrated by Parks and Recreation actress Rashida Jones that highlights life during the pandemic and “a group of healthcare workers that were among the first people in the US to receive the Covid-19 vaccine,” all scored to “Lean on Me.”
Even though the video above is basically an advertisement about how it’s not advertising, I much prefer this to some of A-B’s past Super Bowl advertising ideas. Consider MillerCoors actually sued Anheuser-Busch over its misleading anti-corn syrup commercial and subsequent campaign launched during 2019’s Super Bowl LIII. That’s the same year viewers could also enjoy A-B’s wonderfully violent Game of Thrones eye-gouging spot. A dilly for each socket.
In 2016, A-B actually ran a pair of commercials competing with itself — one promoting macro beer where a rude barfly flicks the orange of his “not a fruit cup” beer. That same year, A-B ran its first craft beer ad focused on its Shock Top brand, a beer so fruity it literally has a mohawked orange as its logo. Greater minds than mine must understand these approaches.
Last year, A-B had four 60-second spots that highlighted five of its brands: Michelob Ultra, Michelob Ultra Gold, Budweiser, Bud Light and Bud Light Seltzer. Last year Bud Light also sponsored an hour-long special on Fox on Feb. 1 (the Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest) which boasted Snoop Dogg, Guns N’ Roses, Maroon 5, DJ Khaled and more. How much less money is the company spending in 2021? According to Variety:
It’s not clear that Anheuser-Busch is cutting its usual Super Bowl spend. The company intends to run four minutes’ worth of advertising in Super Bowl LV for Bud Light, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, Michelob Ultra, and Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer, while running local ads in select markets for Stella Artois and Cutwater Sprits. That’s the same amount of national inventory it purchased last year in Fox’s broadcast of Super Bowl LIV, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. Anheuser spent an estimated $41 million in last year’s game, according to Kantar and has on average accounted for 10% of total Super Bowl ad revenue in each of the event’s last five broadcasts.
Bud’s not the only one cutting back, if it’s cutting back. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are also skipping the Super Bowl this year when it comes to in-game advertising.