In the wake of the surge of American microbreweries over the last decade, Budweiser’s 2015 Super Bowl ad targets the low-hanging fruit of mocking craft beer aficionados to bolster its image as the classic American beer.
It’s no secret that America has fallen out of love with Budweiser. Once the number one selling beer in the United States, Budweiser’s popularity has diminished as craft beer has become more in vogue with the boozing gentry and the nationwide push towards supporting independent businesses has driven consumers away from the powerhouse that is Anheuser-Busch. Whether this is a result of cultural revolution or consumers longing for something more appetizing than Bud’s watery swill is uncertain, but Budweiser is nonetheless feeling the ripples of the market shift and apparently getting very, very nervous.
In November the Wall Street Journal published the article “Bud Crowded Out by Craft Beer Craze” detailing the steady decline of Budweiser’s popularity among 21-to-27-year-olds and reporting that only 44 percent of drinkers in that age bracket had ever sipped on a Budweiser. When an ambitious marketing scheme geared towards those fresh young drinkers who so vehemently shun the “King of Beers” failed to pan out, so Budweiser opted for the next best thing: a pretentious, swaggering testimony of their pride as a “macro beer” that ultimately rendered them more jester-like than regal.
Budweiser aired two commercials during the 2015 Super Bowl: one featuring the notorious Clydesdales in a saccharine anecdote about a lost puppy that made America want to weep its collective eyes out, and the other a brash flex of corporate muscle that scoffs at the burgeoning craft beer community as snobbish and aloof.
The ad features cheesy stock footage of Budweiser drinkers engaging in beer-drenched revelry juxtaposed with shots of several men preening in caricatures of hip beer snobs, noses buried to the hilt in their snifter glasses. Bold white block letters onscreen parade such derogatory quips as “Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale, we’ll be brewing us some golden suds,” and “It’s brewed for drinking, not dissecting.” To anyone who actually drinks beer the ad is as ludicrous as it is insulting, and even non-drinkers may find themselves questioning the integrity of a massive corporation that seemingly has no qualms about decimating the proverbial “little guy” in the business.
The underlying social issue with this ad is that it creates false narratives of Budweiser drinkers and craft beer geeks as an “us vs. them” paradigm — Bud drinkers are the progenitors of the hard-working American dream, whereas microbrew fans are pretentious hipsters who fawn over their beer like it’s a scientific anomaly. The overly boisterous tone of the ad comes off as a desperate assertion that the company is not at all concerned about their place in an ever-evolving craft beer market.
Anheuser-Busch shelled out approximately $9 million for the 60-second ad, but the irony is that rather than bolstering their profits the ad weakened their credibility among even dedicated drinkers and has spurred a massive backlash in the craft beer community that chortles at Budweiser’s attempted bullying tactic.
Since the release of the commercial, sizable craft breweries like Dogfish Head and South Bend Brew Werks have retaliated against the distasteful ad by jokingly responding that a “pumpkin peach ale” sounds appetizing enough to brew and cheekily thanking Budweiser for the inspiration. Perhaps the best response came from Louisiana-based Abita Brewing Company, who released a 20-second spoof of the original ad to reflect their own mission statement:
The sheer audacity of the phrase “Yeah, we made a pumpkin peach beer, and it was good…damn good,” proves that craft breweries are more amused than threatened by Budweiser’s delusions of grandeur. Despite their self-righteous claims of superiority, the majority of the suffering in the aftermath of the great 2015 Budweiser Super Bowl Fiasco will be done by the Anheuser-Busch ad executives, who by now are surely weeping into pint glasses of their beloved “macro” beer.