Official beer of the Superbowl
For as long as anyone can remember, the brewer of Budweiser has locked up beer advertising on the annual NFL fianle, spending tens of millions of dollars to do so. The big game is a very big deal at A-B. Back in the day, the brewery would pit one ad agency against another to see who could come up with the funniest or most emotionally touching ad, the one most likely to win the USA Today most-popular-ad poll. Like some movie mogul, CEO August Busch reportedly had the final say on which ads would run.
With all that money and management focus on Superbowl advertising, you'd think their record would be astonishing.
And you'd be right: It's astonishingly... bad.
Still, by any count, this is a dismal overall record for the world's largest brewer on the biggest televised sports event of the year. It's certainly reasonable to wonder why it all happened. And based on the Bud Light and ShockTop ads earlier this year, why it continues to happen.
The wrong objective doomed A-B
As mentioned earlier, every A-B Superbowl ad was born of the attempt to win the USA Today poll. Like trying to be the most-popular kid at school, that objective shot for style, not substance. So the ads were entertaining, funny, goofy, touching, well-liked. Many did indeed win the USA Today contest. And every year the brewery touted, not sales results, but rather how much buzz their ads generated, or how the ads were showing "very good signs," whatever that meant.
It seems a key to driving actual sales success has been missing from A-B's Superbowl efforts.
With the sole exception of Budweiser's "Brewed the Hard Way," none of the ads dramatized how the beer was different. So none gave folks a reason to buy. The ads were like back-slapping salesmen whose only selling tool was a good joke. You'd remember the joke, but not what he was selling, or why you should but it. So folks laughed... but they didn't buy the beer.
Which brings us around to Anheuser-Busch's latest announcement. The brewer plans to debut ads for their low-priced Busch brand on this season's Superbowl broadcast. And that prompts us to ask a simple question:
Will the ads tell us somehing interesting about Busch beer (here's one idea), or just slap us on the back after a good punch line?