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Budweiser Splashes Water in Super Bowl Ad Meant to Sell Beer

The King of Beers intends to use the Super Bowl to highlight water.

The brewer has established a Super Bowl tradition: Each year, Anheuser-Busch InBev ties its flagship brew to a commercial meant to inspire. In 2002, a Super Bowl ad for the beer showed the company’s stately Clydesdale horses bowing to the Manhattan skyline – a clear nod to the tragedy of September 11, 2001. In 2015, the company made a toast to friendship, with a commercial that tugged on heartstrings by depicting a golden Labrador puppy who gets separated from one of the stately beasts, only to find him once again.

In 2018, however, A-B hopes to rally its employee base by highlighting company workers who over three decades have helped to provide more than 79 million cans of clean drinking water in response to natural disasters. That also means the company will sideline its famous horses (who had a diminished presence last year).

“We are taking a different approach, which is not only to entertain but, most important, to bring a message that has purpose and is very, very relevant for our country right now,” says Ricardo Marques, vice president of marketing for Budweiser, in an interview. The company believes the ad will prove relevant to parts of the country still recovering from massive hurricanes that ravaged places like Texas and Puerto Rico last year – and the ad calls out those places by name, along with California and Florida.

In the ad’s final moments, the words “We’ll Stand By You” appear on screen, and the last image viewers see is a Budweiser can, with the word “America” scrawled across it.

The commercial, crafted by the Miami ad agency David, was filmed at the company’s brewery in Cartersville, Georgia, which is the designated facility for Anheuser-Busch’s emergency water program. The spot features actual employees, not actors, and their actions are  accompanied by a customized versin of the classic song “Stand By Me’ By singer Skylar Grey.

The Cartersville team was called into immediate action in 2017, says Kevin Fahrenkrog, general manger of the brewery there. “This builds off the past year. We had Hurricane Harvey. It hit and the demand for clean drinking water through the American Red Cross was very high,” he recalled.  Anheuser intends to add a second brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado, to its emergency water program to increase its natural disaster efforts by the end of 2018.

The brewer opts for the message as some of its competitors have stepped up their game.  Miller Lite surpassed Budweiser as America’s third-favorite year last year, according to estimates released recently by Beer Marketer’s Insights, an industry trade publication. Bud Light and Coors Light, respectively, stand as the nation’s first and second favorite beers.

American brewers have faced a new market in recent years as U.S. consumers turn increasingly to wine, spirits and craft beers. Marques says he remains optimistic about Budweiser’s potential in 2018.

The new commercial seems destined to avoid the fate of Budweiser’s 2017 Super Bowl ad. That spot paid tribute to the company’s founder, Adolphus Busch, who traveled to America from Germany in 1857.

In the ad, people yelled phrases such as”You don’t look like you’re from here,” and “Go back home” at the young entrepreneur, and Anheuser suddenly  – and inadvertently – found itself in the middle of a national debate on immigration, just as a new Trump administration ordered a travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries. The ad, however, was crafted weeks before the 2016 election.

The company believes the new Super Bowl commercial will be impervious to similar criticism, says Marques, the marketing executive, and will appeal to people of many backgrounds.

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