Budweiser’s Epic Origin Story Super Bowl Spot Joins Immigration & (Of Course) Trump Debate

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Anheuser-Busch InBev brandand NFL sponsor Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad, despite internal claims to the contrary, joins the political dust-up in the form of an epic story of its immigrant cofounder’s journey to the USA.


In dramatic, cinematic style, this Big Game commercial called ‘Born The Hard Way’ retells the story of the brand’s co-founder Adolphus Busch’s 1857 journey from Germany to St Louis in the United States.


From sailing across the stormy Atlantic and arriving in an unwelcoming New York, to jumping off a burning steamboat on the Mississippi River, this period drama follows a battered and bruied, yet determined and resolute Busch (played by Sam Schweikert) on his journey to eventually meeting the company’s cofounder Eberhard Anheuser and creating the world’s largest brewer.


Even those famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses, a stalwart of Bud Super Bowl ads in previous years, make a cameo appearance.


Created by agency Anomaly and directed by Chris Sargent, ‘Born the Hard Way’ was initially teased (to strat generated buzz) via a 15-second cut-down posted (and PR’d) by the brand on 27 January on YouTube



and Twitter.



While the full 60-second spot also appeared ahead of the game on 31 January on YouTube



and across Bud’s other channels such as Instagram.


This is the story of our founder, and his pursuit of the American Dream. #ThisBudsForYou

A video posted by Budweiser (@budweiser) on


MediaCom is handling the media side of the campaign and VaynerMedia the digital strands.


There will be further game-day digital and social support led by a VaynerMedia/Budweiser team on Super Bowl Sunday itself.


This 12-strong group will respond to relevant real-time tweets and posts (according to Budweiser’s own research, 82% of Super Bowl viewers use mobile and social through the game, while 80% of ad-related searches during the game are done on mobile).


Budweiser marketing VP Ricardo Marques states that while the ad is clearly relevant in today’s political climate, the brand did not intend to make a political statement.


‘There’s really no correlation with anything else that’s happening in the country,’ he argues.


‘We believe this is a universal story that is very relevant today because probably more than any other period in history today the world pulls you in different directions, and it’s never been harder to stick to your guns.’


Activative Comment:


Gritty, compelling, classic storytelling and oh so very politically topical, official corporate press releases and quotes from inside the brand may claim it is not making a political statement, but, well, it is isn’t it.


Whether intentional or not (and let’s admit that this kind of bid budget commercial is always many months in the planning and making) this is a powerful statement in the early days of the Trump presidency.


With 2017 Super Bowl broadcaster Fox charging around $5m for a 30-second ad slot, plus the cost of AB InBev secured exclusive category rights for advertising during the Big Game (it is also running Bud Light, Busch, and Michelob Ultra spots), and an estimated production budget in the range of $2m to $3m, this is also a seriously expensive commercial.


The steeply priced tactic is part of the brand’s strategy to attempt to halt its declining US sales and market share in the face of the growing craft beer trend.


But early metrics suggest the investment could well pay off.


After all, in its first 48 hours it notched up more than 6m YouTube views alone – clearly the combination of an epic drama, Super Bowl ad excitement and the political topicality are driving serious engagement.


Budweiser has created many memorable Super Bowl ads – including its 2014 ‘Puppy Love’ spot which still holds the record for the most watched Super Bowl ad ever.



The aim is not just about winning Super Bowl spot popularity metrics, or even just trumpeting its heritage, but rather introducing a marketing message for the year ahead


And yet the story in the Budweiser ad isn’t strictly accurate: most records and reports clearly state that Busch was well-educated and wealthy and his business partner Anheuser was none other than his father-in-law.


Some might say this is fiction is harmless enough in a cliche commercial – especially those who are fans of ‘alternative facts’.


It was inevitable in Trump’s America that within hours of its pre-game release, the hashtag #BoycottBudweiser trended on Twitter.





Of course, origin stories in sports sponsorship activation aren’t exactly new.


After all, Stella Artois’ 2016 Wimbledon campaign saw another beer brand adopt the same approach – albeit with more humour and glamour and much less grit (see case study).


When one door opens another closes….


While Anheuser-Busch InBev continues to have a major presence as an advertiser in massive sporting events like the Super Bowl, January 2017 saw it end its long running partnership with the US Olympic team.


The sponsorship, which has been running for 32 years since 1984, spanned 16 Olympic Games


‘We continually evaluate our sponsorships as our business priorities evolve and we’re adjusting our portfolio to reflect those priorities,’ explained Eelco van der Noll, VP of experiential marketing at the brand.


‘We’re proud of our long-term partnership with the USOC and all that we have accomplished together on behalf of America’s athletes.’


Budweiser’s last activation of the alliance was around last year’s Rio Olympics, which was deployed as part of the brand’s ‘America’ redesign/rename initiative, saw the brand create a mural featuring six USA Olympic and Paralympic athletes in Manhattan, run a branded content series with the athletes during the Games and air the following hero commercial.



















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