By Nat Ives
Anheuser-Busch InBev SA plans four minutes of commercials during Super Bowl LIV on Fox next month, including a single 60-second ad that will promote both Bud Light and the new Bud Light Seltzer.
"We really believe that we have a beautiful opportunity to address Bud Light drinkers and non-Bud Light drinkers," said Marcel Marcondes, U.S. marketing chief for Anheuser-Busch, speaking on a conference call with reporters.
Bud Light Seltzer is a priority for AB InBev. Traditional domestic beer remains the largest category of alcohol in the U.S., but easy-drinking lagers like Bud Light and its competitors have been losing market share as drinkers gravitate to craft brews, liquor and, most recently, seltzer with alcohol in it.
Last year AB InBev devoted one of its Super Bowl ad slots to its Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer, whose ad featured a pair of mermaids talking up "fruit botanicals" and zero sugar. But Bon & Viv was outsold in 2019 by competitors such as Mark Anthony Brands' White Claw.
AB InBev later rolled out Natural Light Seltzer and is now preparing to introduce Bud Light Seltzer.
The company's overall Super Bowl buy this year is in line with its traditional levels, but a reversal of its surge last year, when it ran more than five minutes of commercials. That was likely the largest buy in the company's decades of advertising during the game.
Beyond the Bon & Viv work, AB InBev ads in the 2019 Super Bowl included a surprise crossover between Bud Light and HBO's "Game of Thrones," in which a character from the TV series appeared to kill the beer brand's Bud Knight mascot. Separate Bud Light commercials targeted rivals for using corn syrup in their brewing processes, eventually helping to set off rounds of litigation that continue today.
"For some brands we're still betting big on TV, but for other brands we're trying other things," Mr. Marcondes said of this year's plan. Stella Artois, for example, will sit out the Super Bowl ad roster this year after appearing in 2019, but the company will promote it at events on the ground in Miami, where the game will be played.
Bud Light will also be highlighted in a new one-hour TV special the night before the game that features a music festival under its name, Mr. Marcondes said.
In addition to the combo ad for Bud Light and Bud Light Seltzer, AB InBev said it will run three other minute-long commercials, one each to promote Budweiser, Michelob Ultra and Michelob Ultra Pure Gold.
Mr. Marcondes declined to detail the creative approaches in the ads but said the Budweiser commercial will champion the American spirit as well as feature a new label and packaging. The Bud Light spot will be lighthearted, as usual for the brand. The Michelob Ultra ad will evoke health and wellness, he said.
Advertisers are paying up to $5.6 million for 30 seconds of airtime during the football game, although companies that buy multiple spots get a discount.
AB InBev's beverages will appear on the ad roster with products such as Procter & Gamble Co.'s Olay brand and PepsiCo Inc.'s SodaStream, tech giants including Facebook Inc. and campaign ads from President Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg.
Fox Corp. said in November that it had already sold out of commercial time during the Super Bowl, sooner than usual for the networks that carry the game. Fox and Wall Street Journal parent News Corp share common ownership.
The game will take place on Feb 2.
Write to Nat Ives at firstname.lastname@example.org