Floodgates Open for Beer Ads During Super Bowl

Clydesdale horses. Spuds MacKenzie. Wassssuuuuuuup?!

Beer ads are practically as characteristic of the Super Bowl as touchdowns. And they will be again this year, with one big change: They won’t all come from brands owned by Anheuser-Busch.

After three decades as the only alcohol brand to air its commercials nationally during the game, the parent company of Budweiser, Bud Light and Michelob Ultra gave up that exclusivity in June.

Cue the competitors — and a flood of beer and alcohol ads in Sunday’s national broadcast.

“It took us less than a minute to decide,” said Michelle St. Jacques, the chief marketing officer of Molson Coors, the parent company of brands including Coors Light and Miller Lite. “We were like, ‘Game on.’”

Jonnie Cahill, the chief marketing officer at Heineken, which will feature its alcohol-free Heineken 0.0 in a commercial on Sunday, said: “As a C.M.O., when that announcement was made, of course your eyes open up and you think, What if?” He added, “We’re delighted to be able to access the Super Bowl.”

Crown Royal and Rémy Martin will also run national Super Bowl commercials for the first time on Sunday. But Anheuser-Busch will still be the game’s largest advertising spender, with four ads: three minutes of national time and 30 seconds of regional time.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in a Super Bowl ad for Heineken this year.Credit…Heineken

The Super Bowl remains the most important event on the advertising calendar in the United States. In the two weeks surrounding the game last year, more than $1.6 billion was spent on beer, hard cider and malt beverages, and more than 60 million cases of those drinks were sold, according to Nielsen IQ.

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Some advertisers paid Fox, which is broadcasting the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs, more than $7 million for a 30-second spot. Several forecasts predict that more than 110 million people will watch this year’s game.

Some brands, however, are pulling back on their marketing budgets in response to an uncertain economy. Mark Evans, executive vice president of ad sales for Fox Sports, said that “the enthusiasm to spend $7 million for 30 seconds waned a little bit” toward the end of 2022, but that the ad slots sold out by late January.

Viewers can expect to see, in addition to booze ads, spots from major food brands like Doritos, Avocados From Mexico, M&M’s and Planters, as well as a smattering of ads for car companies and tech firms. Notably, cryptocurrency companies will be absent, after they were so prominent during last year’s game that many observers called it the “Crypto Bowl.” The industry crashed in the months that followed.

Brands will be marketing their products on other screens, especially phones. Many plan interactive rollouts as well, seeking to engage viewers on TikTok and sports-betting apps around the game.

But the main focus remains on the television ads.

Anheuser-Busch gave up its exclusive rights as part of a “rebalancing” of investments, said Alissa Heinerscheid, the vice president of marketing for Bud Light.

Bud Light’s commercial will feature the actor Miles Teller (an Eagles fan) and his wife, the influencer Keleigh Teller. In the spot, the couple drink out of cans of Bud Light and dance as they wait on hold. The energy is “lighter and brighter” this year, Ms. Heinerscheid said.

Though other alcohol brands have long been shut out of national Super Bowl ad spots, they have often found ways to reach consumers during the game. Rémy Martin has run regional ads for its cognac. Molson Coors has promoted a number of digital efforts to engage viewers around the Super Bowl. (One campaign invited viewers to type out a very long URL to burn a single calorie.)

But the companies say they are glad to be able to participate in an official capacity this year.

“Even though we’ve been locked out for the past 30 years, we’ve kind of hacked our way into the conversation,” Ms. St. Jacques of Molson Coors said.

Her company’s campaign, which will highlight Coors Light and Miller Light, started weeks ago and invited viewers to bet on what will happen in its Super Bowl ad — like the type of dog that will appear behind a counter and how many characters will have facial hair — and enter a pool on DraftKings, the sports-betting app, which is running its own Super Bowl commercial. People who guess correctly will split $500,000 in prize money. Molson Coors has promoted its challenge on social media, in teaser ads during other football games and in a paid media campaign.

The content of the final ad has been kept under tight wraps, Ms. St. Jacques said. Even the company’s chief executive, she said in an interview last month, will find out what happens in the commercial when the rest of the world does.

“Everyone has been waiting 30 years, so a couple more weeks will be fine,” she said.

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