A-B turns Super Bowl advertising into Bud Bowl


By Thomas Lee


Anheuser-Busch Cos. once again will rule the Super Bowl.

The St. Louis-based brewer has purchased a total of five minutes of air time for CBS’ Feb. 1 telecast of Super Bowl XXXVIII, far more than any other company.

Pepsi-Cola Co. bought three minutes of commercials, while General Motors Corp., America Online and the National Football League each purchased a minute and a half.

The average price of a 30-second commercial is a record-breaking $2.3 million, according to Advertising Age, a leading trade publication. That means A-B spent approximately $23 million for its Super Bowl dominance.

All together, the company will unveil nine commercials: four 30-second spots and a 60-second commercial during the first half of the game, and four 30-second spots during the second half.

The commercials, which focus on Budweiser and Bud Light, will feature a familiar cast of characters, including St. Louis native Cedric the Entertainer and a bumbling football referee.

One spot that has generated buzz is a 60-second commercial that depicts a donkey who wants to be a Clydesdale horse. The spot is a variation of A-B’s previous Super Bowl commercials in which the Clydesdales play football.

As usual, A-B will have a fourth-quarter ad that promotes responsible drinking. In the commercial, country star Tim McGraw and Los Angeles Lakers forward Rick Fox show up at a club, where they receive plenty of attention from adoring fans. But the celebrities are soon upstaged by a frumpy man – the designated driver – who has his own posse of attractive women.

A-B also will introduce a commercial for Bud Light that emphasizes quality. Normally, the company devotes its quality messages for Budweiser, its flagship brand. Over the years, Bud Light has been A-B’s primary platform for its signature humor ads.

“With Bud Light, you have the humor,” said Bob Lachky, A-B’s vice president of brand management. “But it’s just nice to remind consumers what the product stands for.”

A-B’s Super Bowl lineup is also notable for what it doesn’t include. Leon, the egotistical football player whose commercials have run throughout the NFL season, did not make the cut. Ditto for Real Men of Genius, the television version of the popular radio campaign. The brewery started running the television ads last fall.

In both those cases, the audience already knows the general ending, Lachky said. Super Bowl spots are supposed to wow and surprise audiences, he said.

The company also will not plug Michelob Ultra, its enormously successful low carbohydrate beer. Ultra already has a “monster” marketing budget, Lachky said.

Plus, “There’s nothing new you can say about it,” he said.

Over the years, Anheuser-Busch Cos. has created memorable Super Bowl commercials. Among them:

1989 – Bud Bowl. Budweiser and Bud Light bottles square off in a football game. Bud Bowl ads air for six Super Bowls.

1995 – Budweiser Frogs. Three bullfrogs, in turn, croak “Bud…Weis…Er.”

1998 – Louie the Lizard. Famed-starved lizard assassinates the Budweiser Frogs.

2000 – Whasssup? Men greet each other enthusiastically.

2003 – Clydesdale Football. In this sequel to a 1996 Super Bowl ad, the Clydesdales use instant replay to settle a dispute.