By John Kell
February 2, 2017

Bud Light’s original party animal is back from the grave.

On Thursday, Anheuser-Busch Inbev debuted the 90-second Bud Light advertisement that the world’s largest brewer will run during the Super Bowl, part of the brand’s new campaign “Famous Among Friends.” The ad brings back a dog named Spuds MacKenzie that the brewer first made famous in the 1980s.

Spuds MacKenzie was such a big hit that he appeared on t-shirts and plush dolls and became a broader pop culture character with references in hit television shows including “The Golden Girls” and “Family Guy.” There was some controversy at the time—Spuds the dog was portrayed as male in the ads but was played by a female (that was a big deal in the 80s for some reason). With the real Spuds having died in the 1990s, AB InBev is bringing back the bull terrier in ghost form—30 years after Spuds first appeared in a Super Bowl ad in 1987.

“Although Spuds will be shedding his former persona, his message of lasting friendships is one that intends to resonate across generations, and integrate with Bud Light’s broader “Famous Among Friends” brand campaign,” said AB InBev. Marcel Marcondes, vice president of marketing at AB InBev, told media outlets in a January presentation that “Bud Light has always been about social moments. Bud Light has always been about bringing people together. It has always been about friendship.”

The 90-second advertising slot for Bud Light is a big investment for AB InBev, considering broadcaster Fox is reportedly asking advertisers to pony up as much as $5 million for just 30 seconds. AB InBev is betting big on the game’s ability to draw in viewers as it intends to air ads for four brands: Bud Light, Budweiser, Michelob ULTRA and Busch.

The friend-themed ad for Bud Light represents a pivot from the brand’s 2016 campaign, an election-themed spot that featured feature comedians Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen. That ad wasn’t particularly successful in generating buzz for the brand—as Bud Light’s sales to retailers slid last year and the brand lost market share. By the fall, AB InBev had transitioned away from the ad and instead focused its energy on the beer’s partnership with the NFL. Marcondes said the company wanted to rely less on celebrities for selling beer.

The challenge for Marcondes and his team is to turn around fortunes for Bud Light, which remains the top-selling beer in the U.S. but has posted consistently softer sales. Volume for Bud Light, which peaked in 2008 at around 42 million barrels, has slid steadily to close to 35 million in 2016, according to preliminary figures from industry publication Beer Marketer’s Insights. Light beers have broadly ceded volume to craft competitors, as well as foreign imports from Mexico.

AB InBev’s Spuds ad is the second spot for Bud Light’s most recent ad campaign. The first, “Between Friends” aired during the AFC and NFC Championship games.

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