The New England Patriots emerged once again as Super Bowl champions, but Bud Light claimed the big game’s marketing victory.
The Anheuser-Busch InBev brand grabbed viewers’ attention with its partnership with HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” In the ad, the beer’s Bud Knight—along with an arena of watchers—gets vanquished in gruesome fashion:
— Bud Light (@budlight) February 4, 2019
One of the most talked about brands, Bud Light, brought its Bud Knight into the fantasy world in its crossover spot with HBO’s Game of Thrones. Data from iSpot shows that ‘Jousting’ earned more than 170m social impressions by the middle of the third quarter.
Additionally, the minute-long Bud Light and HBO collaboration to help promote the final season of Game of Thrones received plaudits on social media, with statistics from Brandwatch indicating that as of 6 pm EST, the light-beer brand had 57,000 mentions across Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and Twitter.
What’s more, its share of the conversation spiked several times during the course of the evening’s proceedings, with its largest increase in social mentions—the largest mention spike of any brand during the game—occurring immediately after its Game of Thrones collaboration. Brandwatch data shows that social-media reaction to this 60-second spot lasted two minutes, generating a total of 4,600 social mentions across platforms.
Bud Light’s collaboration with “Game of Thrones” wasn’t the only marketing message from the beer brand to incite conversation, however.
In another ad, Bud Light touted its brew’s ingredients with a snarky narrative about its shunning of corn syrup:
To be clear, Bud Light is not brewed with corn syrup, and Miller Lite and Coors Light are. pic.twitter.com/x6tWqdSRXN
— Bud Light (@budlight) February 3, 2019
The spot was a continuation of Bud Light’s recent marketing campaign highlighting its ingredients.
While also taking aim at two smaller competitors, Bud Light was using the Super Bowl commercial to highlight the fact that as of this month it lists its ingredients on its packaging. Such labeling isn’t required for alcoholic beverages, though many brands include calories and other nutritional information. Bud Light says it’s the first beer company to list ingredients in the U.S. “We think it is good for the beer industry as a whole to be transparent about what’s in your beer,” Andy Goeler, vice president of marketing for Bud Light, told USA TODAY. “Just as important as what’s in is what’s not in our beer. … No corn syrup, no preservatives, no artificial flavors.”
Bud Light’s social media team spread that message in the brand’s responses to Twitter users:
I didn't know I cared about corn syrup until now
— Nate Blogg (@BarstoolNate) February 3, 2019
That's why we think you deserve to know your beer's ingredients.
— Bud Light (@budlight) February 4, 2019
Many Twitter users poked fun at the campaign:
Really confused on Bud Light promoting No Corn Syrup. Was the ad dreamed up by the people who gave us Organic Gatorade?
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 4, 2019
who are the light beer drinkers who care deeply about the presence or absence of corn syrup in their light beers
— maya kosoff (@mekosoff) February 4, 2019
Trying to tell america that corn syrup is bad is a bold choice
— 2019 Jason Kirk (@JasonKirkSBN) February 3, 2019
I didn’t know beer had corn syrup or that I was supposed to care.
— Nick Confessore (@nickconfessore) February 4, 2019
I’d like to see the Venn diagram of Bud Light consumers and people who care about corn syrup
— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) February 4, 2019
Miller Lite and MillerCoors responded to Bud Light’s snark with their own zingers:
Hey Bud Light, thanks for including us in our first Super Bowl ad in over 20 years. You forgot two things though… we have more taste and half the carbs! #itsmillertime
— Miller Lite (@MillerLite) February 4, 2019
At MillerCoors, we're proud of our high-quality, great-tasting beers. We're also proud that none of our products include any high fructose corn syrup, while a number of Anheuser-Busch products do. And Miller Lite has fewer calories, fewer carbs and more taste than Bud Light. pic.twitter.com/GeUUXqnSpc
— MillerCoors (@MillerCoors) February 4, 2019
“It was interesting they went for a broad brand play there and actually attacked their competitors,” said Jon Haber, co-founder of the ad agency Giant Spoon. “They did it in a funny and cute way.” The aim seemed to be to “put that little seed of doubt in there” for consumers in stores, who are deciding between the three brands, he said.
“Pepsi and Coke have done it to each other for years,” Mr. Haber said of the jab. “It’s a tried-and-true tradition.”
However, the sassy commercial, combined with its partnership with “Game of Thrones,” helped Bud Light emerge as Super Bowl LIII’s marketing winner.
Several other brewers and a liquor brand jumped onto the “no corn syrup” bandwagon:
— HEINEKEN USA (@HeinekenUSACorp) February 4, 2019
— Wiley Roots Brewing Company (@WileyRoots) February 4, 2019
— Samuel Adams Beer (@SamuelAdamsBeer) February 3, 2019
— Revival Brewing Co (@revivalbrewing) February 4, 2019
We don’t use #cornsyrup either, in case you were wondering 😎
— BACARDI (@BACARDI) February 4, 2019
Hoping to grab 15 minutes seconds of fame, social media managers for Perrier and Franks RedHot also tweeted about their abstaining from the oft-maligned ingredient:
Corn syrup? We can't relate. pic.twitter.com/VZ8MIKU4en
— Perrier USA (@PerrierUSA) February 4, 2019
yooo peep the label – we don’t have any corn syrup either pic.twitter.com/tJOM77Dpzb
— Frank's RedHot (@FranksRedHot) February 4, 2019
Though Bud Light’s corn syrup ad won it headlines and conversation, it reaped backlash along with the Twitter snark.
The National Corn Growers Association lashed out at the beer brand and said farmers were “disappointed” in the message:
.@BudLight America’s corn farmers are disappointed in you. Our office is right down the road! We would love to discuss with you the many benefits of corn! Thanks @MillerLight and @CoorsLite for supporting our industry. https://t.co/6fIWtRdeeM
— National Corn (NCGA) (@NationalCorn) February 4, 2019
Individual corn farmers also criticized the brewer, with one tweeting a video in which he pours Bud Light down the drain:
— Ryan Dale Bivens (@bivensfarms) February 4, 2019
— Kevin Ross (@krossfarms) February 4, 2019
Bud Light’s “Special Delivery” commercial dragged Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup in their beers, a move meant to portray Bud’s simple ingredients — water, barley, rice and hops — as superior. But corn farmers weren’t amused by the implication that corn syrup is unhealthy or undesirable.
Anheuser-Busch said it “fully supports” corn growers and will continue to invest in the industry. “Bud Light’s Super Bowl commercials are only meant to point out a key difference in Bud Light from some other light beers,” it said in a statement.