Budweiser attempts rebranding with Super Bowl ads

After Anheuser-Busch's rocky year, the company is trying a new strategy

Following a rocky year of bad press and declining sales, Anheuser-Busch is going back to basics for its Super Bowl LVIII ads with a focus on patriotism and humor, FOX Business has learned.

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Anheuser-Busch, a unit of the AB InBev adult beverage conglomerate, has announced that it purchased 2½ minutes of ad space spread across three separate slots that will air during the Super Bowl on Feb. 11, marketing its top beer brands: Bud Light, Budweiser and Michelob Ultra. It will feature sports stars, Clydesdale horses, and humorous characters from prior ad campaigns including, according to one company insider, a genie.

Beer

Cases of Budweiser and Bud Light beer. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images/File / Getty Images)

What hasn’t been announced is the company’s strategy to return to old themes that have been successful in previous years. According to a person with knowledge of the matter, the company is looking to underscore both patriotism and humor in the ads — a stark contrast to the social media spots posted by Anheuser-Busch’s former influencer, the controversial transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney, that led to a boycott of Bud Light, and falling sales that continue to this day.

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The company is looking to use the Super Bowl — the most-watched American TV broadcast which boasted over 115 million viewers last year — to repair its image.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
BUD ANHEUSER-BUSCH INBEV 61.67 +1.47 +2.44%

Company officials are hoping the rich ad-spending during the Super Bowl will be a turning point in the decline of what was once one of America’s most iconic brands. It all began in April 2023, when Mulvaney posted two promotional videos, one which showed her sipping Bud Light in a bubble bath, the other drinking the beer while dressed up as Audrey Hepburn’s famous character Holly Golightly from "Breakfast at Tiffany’s."

Dylan Mulvaney drinks Bud Light beer

Bud Light faced intense backlash from longtime customers over its campaign with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney.? (Instagram/Fox News/File / Fox News)

The videos sparked a huge backlash from Budweiser’s traditional customer base, who felt the company was channeling progressive politics in its messaging. Budweiser immediately cut ties with Mulvaney, but the fallout remains with Bud Light sales down close to 30% in the first two weeks of 2024, compared with the same period last year, according to consulting firm Bump Williams. 

Late last year, Publishers Clearing House Consumer Insights surveyed 5,000 people and found that 54% were aware of the Mulvaney campaign misfire.

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According to an Anheuser-Busch press release, Budweiser’s ad slot will feature the famous Clydesdale horses that have long been associated with the beer. Anheuser-Busch says the Clydesdale ad aims to represent "resilience, determination and coming together over a beer."

One source familiar with the ad campaign says Anheuser-Busch plans to rely on humor for its Bud Light ad, introducing a new character, as well as featuring fan favorites from commercials past like the Budweiser Genie.

Bud Light on store shelf

Bud Light, made by Anheuser-Busch, on a store shelf in Miami. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/File / Getty Images)

The genie was featured in a 2007 ad, where a young blonde woman walking on a beach stumbles over a magic lamp in the sand. A genie materializes and asks the woman her three wishes, to which she responds, "to be loved across America, to be a worldwide sensation" and "to make all men salivate when they see me."

The genie responds by turning her into a bottle of Budweiser.

The Michelob Ultra slot will feature soccer’s biggest icon, Lionel Messi, the star of the last World Cup, to "celebrate the different facets of active living."

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This year’s Super Bowl ad spend has been an expensive one for Anheuser-Busch, which wears the crown for this year’s biggest advertiser within the beer industry. According to multiple sources, a 30-second ad is going for $7 million, which means Anheuser-Busch spent around $21 million on airtime alone. It’s unclear how much it paid Messi to be the frontman for its Michelob Ultra commercial.

Anheuser-Busch and its brands have been linked to some of the most creative and memorable ads to appear during football’s biggest night of the year. 

Last year, Bud Light featured actor Miles Teller, his wife, Keleigh, and their French bulldog dancing around their living room with beers in their hands. In 2019, the brand partnered with HBO to make a Game of Thrones-themed Super Bowl ad to celebrate the final season of the series.

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