Budweiser: King of Beer and Weird Super Bowl Ads

From the cooler to the commercials, the annual spectacle of American debauchery that is the Super Bowl is no stranger to beer. According to Mashable, consumption statistics have estimated that about 325 millions gallons of beer will be swilled on game day, and the pop culture blogosphere has all but erupted with articles on the best beers for Super Bowl parties and how politicized your snack choice is. Amid the bacchanalia of chicken wings and Bud Light bottles there’s also some football, and a slew of costly advertisements desperately fumbling towards originality or absurdity.

Anheuser-Busch, the largest brewing company in the U.S. and the parent brand of Budweiser and the endless parade of its Light and Silver siblings, is a powerhouse for Super Bowl advertising. The company’s commercial for the 1986 Super Bowl (XX for you football fans) gave birth to the Budweiser Clydesdales, the colloquial mascots for which the brand that have made appearances in their Super Bowl ads for almost 30 years. With a game day advertising budget that has exceeded $90 million since 2010 according to Business Insider, Anheuser-Busch takes the Super Bowl, and its commercials, more seriously than die-hard Patriots fans have taken the 2015 Deflate-gate scandal.

The trend in advertising in the post-Reagan era is towards the absurd, and Anheuser-Busch’s Super Bowl commercial game has gotten pretty bizarre over the years. The 2015 Super Bowl will mark the 10 year anniversary of the “Streaker” ad, premiered during Super Bowl XL:

No doubt paying homage to the notorious 2004 Super Bowl streaker, the ad features a freshly shorn sheep showboating for a lineup of Clydesdales in a mock-up of the starting line, causing the other animals to laugh uncontrollably. While it’s certainly a cutesy allusion to the nude antics of football fans, there’s something kind of creepy about the sheep’s ass-shaking towards the end — maybe I’m not as up on sheep physiology as I thought, but I didn’t know they could twerk. Go figure.

And as always, Budweiser reminds you to “drink responsibly,” so that you don’t end up shearing off all your wool and twerking for a bunch of ranch animals. Because some of us need that extra reminder.

One of Budweiser’s most famous commercials, the “Frogs” ad premiered in Super Bowl XXIX in 1995:

Fun fact: this ad was directed by Gore Verbinski of Pirates of the Carribean fame. To this day the “Budweiser frogs” ad is among the most internationally well-known marketing campaigns, so Verbinski was doing something right long before he graced us with the plastered pariah of Jack Sparrow.

As a kid I distinctly remember being terrified of this ad and having an aversion to frogs for many years after, convinced that every toad and spring peeper I came across would no doubt try to peer pressure me into giving them beer, or my soul. By this logic it’s probably no coincidence that I now avoid Budweiser like the plague, and I’m still not terribly fond of frogs. Anheuser-Busch will be getting a bill for my extensive therapy somewhere down the road.

And of course, there’s the Spuds MacKenzie debacle:

Spuds Mackenzie skateboarded his way into our hearts during the 1987 Super Bowl as the new mascot for Bud Light, a watery low-calorie alternative to classic Budweiser. The adorable Bull Terrier was merchandised beyond even Disney’s wildest dreams and mass produced in the form of t-shirts, plush toys, and key chain bottle openers, giving and unlikely credibility to a “light” beer. However, beloved Spuds stirred up some controversy with groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who claimed the canine mascot’s “party lifestyle” aesthetic would encourage underage drinking. Even though an investigation by the FCC revealed no such devious findings, Anheuser-Busch still pulled the pup from its main advertising ring to be used only in special promotions.

Spuds also made headlines when it was discovered that the alpha male “party dog” used in the commercials was, in fact, a female. But despite this shocking revelation, Spuds remained as popular as ever until she was officially “retired” from advertising in 1999. Since then Anheuser-Busch has been wary of using hard-partying animals in its advertisements (Clydesdales are notoriously responsible drinkers), but there was a time when drinking Bud Light made you as cool as a Hawaiian-shirt clad dog on a skateboard. Oh, nostalgia.

In the wake of decades of bizarre and disconcerting Super Bowl advertisements, Budweiser certainly has a warm place in the hearts (and stomachs) of football fans nationwide. Here’s to hoping this year’s advertisements keep in step with themes of animal husbandry and streaking, because there is never enough of that on primetime television.

And if your Super Bowl party ends in you getting naked and twerking for a bunch of cattle, you should probably seek professional help.

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