Budweiser Is Taunting Craft Beer Lovers Again

February 6, 2016, 11:00 AM UTC
Courtesy of Anheuser Busch-InBev/YouTube

Budweiser is the big brother of the beer world that just cannot help teasing his little siblings.

That’s the subliminal message in Anheuser Busch-InBev’s (BUD) new ad spot for the nation’s fourth-most popular beer, a campaign called “Not Backing Down.” The ad, which will run during Super Bowl 50 this Sunday, will “unapologetically celebrate” Budweiser by mixing images of charging clydesdales and the brewing process that goes into making the “macro” beer.

It is also a sequel to a story that AB InBev kicked off last year, when it controversially teased the craft beer industry with an ad campaign called “Brewed the hard way,” which also debuted during the Super Bowl. That ad campaign mocked not only the popular craft beer industry’s brewers, but also the people that enjoy those beers.

It also led to some controversy. At the time, AB InBev had inked deals to buy a pair of brewers in the pacific northwest: Elysian and 10 Barrel. And since then, AB InBev has announced several more acquisitions in the craft beer space, scooping up Breckenridge Brewery, Four Peaks Brewing, and Golden Road Brewing last year.

The 2015 ad teased “let them sip their pumpkin peach ale,” while boasting “we’ll be brewing some golden suds.” The newer ad is a little less aggressive, though some of the text proclaims “not sipped,” “not soft,” and “not a fruit cup” (when that last text appears, an older man can be seen flicking a lemon slice off the rim of his pint).

“It is a continuation of a spot we aired last year – about how Budweiser is proud to be big,” Jorn Socquet, vice president of U.S. marketing at AB InBev, told members of the media at a sneak peak viewing of the ad campaign. “It created a little bit of a stir as some craft brewers reached out to us. But we stood tall because we believe in our principles.”

You can view the ad below.


Brian Perkins, vice president of marketing at Budweiser, told Fortune that his team knew the 2015 ad would be a “bold and provocative spot. We knew that not everyone would agree with it.”

He went on to add that the campaign was successful. “We found a way to talk about the pride in which we brew that is engaging,” Perkins said. “It is working, so we want to keep doing it.”

The 2015 ad, however, infuriated Dick Cantwell, a co-founder and former head brewer of Elysian Brewing, which actually makes a pumpkin peach ale. He quit shortly after the ad ran.

This year, AB InBev says it is being more thoughtful about the strategy and ensuring all brewers are on the same page. Perkins said last year, many on the AB InBev “craft” team didn’t know about the ad until they saw it run during the game. This year, the company made sure that everyone saw all key brewers saw it ahead of the launch.

“Brands have a responsibility to reinforce the position of their brand, not the whole [AB InBev] portfolio of beers,” said Perkins. “I am here to make ads about Budweiser. The craft brewers’ sales are skyrocketing, so there is no hindrance to their business.”

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