Beer ads and Super Bowl Sunday go together like chips and salsa, so it wasn't a surprise that Budweiser ran a minute-long commercial during the big game on Sunday. But what was a surprise was the new direction of the ad: directly insulting craft-beer drinkers.
As a beer drinker myself, I would assume I'm the audience for any beer company's commercials. While I mostly drink craft brews, I also enjoy a Budweiser or a Coors with my neighbors when they are kind enough to offer them, and I've been to plenty of bars that only offer those brands. But I found Budweiser's ad so rude that I don't know if I want to drink that beer again — ever.
Check out the ad below if you haven't seen it:
The sad thing is, it would be have been a solid commercial had they just cut the parts that basically make fun of people who drink craft brews — but Budweiser went there, and not even in a lightly mocking or funny way (which would have been much more palatable). Budweiser just straight-out attacked people who enjoy drinking beer. Is it because the company is feeling threatened? Joshua Smith, a YouTube commenter who echoed many others' feelings wrote: "It seems like [this ad] was made spitefully to attack the consumers damaging their market share." It's just ... mean.
Maybe it's because Budweiser is running scared. In the years since smaller breweries have expanded and multiplied, it turns out that even though the big beer companies didn't originally feel threatened by them, the sheer number and market saturation (you can now find some craft brews in well-stocked convenience markets) means that it's true — the craft brewers are now a real threat to the big breweries.
"Craft beer sales combined now outsell Budweiser, which reached peak production in the late 1980s. They’re freaking out because they’re rapidly losing market share," explains Daniel Sieradski, a graphic designer and craft beer aficionado. Craft breweries regularly get bought up by macrobreweries like MillerCoors, Anheuser-Busch and Pabst. In fact, Sieradski told me that the ad is pretty ironic, considering that Bud's parent company, AB-Inbev, "... just bought a craft brewery that specifically makes the pumpkin peach beer they mock in their commercial." (That would be Seattle's Elysian Brewery, which makes a pumpkin, peach and pecan ale).
In states where craft beer brewing is an important part of the economy, like Colorado, Vermont, Washington, Oregon, and Montana, the reaction to the Budweiser commercial has been a combination of eye-rolling and offense (see video above from Denver, where even the anchor seems to be annoyed at Bud's put-down).
KUSA spoke with Shannon Madruga, a craft beer maker with Elk Mountain Brewery in Parker who took the ad as a challenge: "I'm brewing a pumpkin peach ale because the ad said 'us craft-beer makers' can continue sipping on our pumpkin peach ale — so I decided I was going to make one!" She added, "In the craft beer industry, nobody that I know is snooty or pretentious or is 'dissecting their beers' — we just really enjoy great beer."
Sieradski also saw something else that I noticed in Bud's ad: a not-so-subtle insinuation that people who drink craft beers are geeky. (Um, hasn't Budweiser heard about the rise of geeks in pop culture? They're the new cool kids!) If you'll notice, the people drinking craft brews are all guys with glasses — and they are being "fussy" with their beer. "I also think insinuating that you’re somehow less masculine because you appreciate better tasting and higher ABV beers is juvenile and crude," says Sieradski.
Starre Vartan and friends enjoy beers at the Oktoberfest celebration in Oakland, California. (Photo: Starre Vartan)
And on a personal note: can we please see some women drinking beer in a beer ad and not just bringing longnecks to a table full of guys? (That visual was repeated three times in this ad.) 'Cause I'm proof-positive women like a frosty lager (well, I'm an IPA fan personally) — in fact it was my grandmother who introduced me to the wonderful world of beer appreciation.
Beer was originally brewed by women, and Beer West magazine points out: "Most women have more taste buds than most men, which gives them a substantial edge when savoring the flavors, aromas, and complexities of a well-crafted beer in a properly poured pint. In other words, women, on average, and in general, have broader, better, and more balanced palates than men. So why is it that so many people still consider beer a boy’s sport?"
Graphic: Phillip Wilson via Wikimedia Commons
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