Bud's Super Bowl ads take on an international flavor

By Laura Petrecca and Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY

Anheuser-Busch (BUD)— the biggest Super Bowl advertiser by far — will go slightly less patriotic and be more worldly in its ads this year. It also will give its declining Budweiser brand more air time.

Unlike during some recent Super Bowls, there will be no A-B ads in emotional support of American soldiers or 9/11 victims. Rather, the ads will mostly have a more humorous and even international feel, says Bob Lachky, executive vice president of global industry development.

The Budweiser brand — which has been losing market share domestically for several years — is being re-billed as a “world” beer. As imported beer sales have climbed, Anheuser-Busch has been buying up import brands in recent years. And its Super Bowl ads seem to be doing less flag-waving and more global hugs.

Two Bud spots will end with a logo of the globe behind the familiar Budweiser symbol.

For A-B, it’s a new world — of competition.

“We have lots of equity in our traditional American heritage,” Lachky says. “But most people don’t know that Budweiser is one of the world’s most popular beers.” In fact, it’s second only to Bud Light as the world’s best-selling beer.

One ad for Bud appears to take place aboard the Space Station as an American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut celebrate their soon-to-be-ending tour of space with a Bud that’s as weightless as they are.

While Budweiser may not be No. 1 in Russia, it is big in nations from the United Kingdom to China, Lachky says. With this nod to Bud’s worldliness, “We’re trying to get it back on the radar screen.”

For A-B, there could be no better place to do that than at the Super Bowl, says Jon Bond, co-chairman of ad agency Kirshenbaum Bond+Partners, which doesn’t have any advertisers on this year’s game. “The Super Bowl is the Super Bowl of drinking occasions. It makes perfect sense for Budweiser to go on there.”

In a nod to cultural inclusion, Latino comedian Carlos Mencia, from Comedy Central, stars in a Bud Light spot. In it, he teaches an English class how to speak with a Southern drawl when asking for a Bud Light.

Some A-B ads will give an emotional lift to the little guy, including one with the Clydesdales and a lost dog.

But celebrities will make a showing, too. In one ad, rapper Jay-Z and football legend Don Shula square off in a football-themed chess game. Dale Earnhardt Jr. stars in an ad in which he’s being chased in his race car by an angry gang of Mad Max-type hooligans.

A-B also will be expanding its Internet — and other new media — presence around the Super Bowl.

It will promote Bud.TV, its new online entertainment network that targets twentysomethings. The website kicks off the day after the Super Bowl.

For the first time, the brewer will text message A-B fans on their cellphones during the Super Bowl, asking them to vote for their favorite A-B Super Bowl ads on their cellphones.

Meanwhile, in other Super Bowl ad news:

• CBS still selling. So far, more than 25 advertisers have bought time, with some snapping up multiple spots. But Jo Ann Ross, CBS’ president of network sales, on Wednesday at a Reuters event wouldn’t disclose what percentage of the inventory is sold.

Some advertisers are worried that their ads may not be “Super Bowl worthy” because the event is so high-profile, Ross said. While sales are tracking on schedule to what CBS expected, there are still holdouts. “Like any other event, people wait until the last minute to get a discount,” she said, but added, “When clients wait, they won’t get the position they want.”

With two black head coaches heading to the big game — Indianapolis Colts’ Tony Dungy and the Chicago Bears’ Lovie Smith — one marketer is adding to its ad time for a Black History Month spot, Ross says. She would not name the advertiser.

• Sprint is in. The wireless company is returning with a humorous ad, Mike Goff, vice president of national advertising said in an e-mail statement. The commercial will promote mobile broadband.

• CareerBuilder.com chimps fired. The job site cut the vine on troublemaking chimps that starred in its Super Bowl ads for two years. This year’s ads, set in a jungle, show exaggerated workplace situations, such as employees literally fighting for a promotion.