Budweiser is, as always, going to the Super Bowl — but the bulk of TV viewers checking out the Big Game might miss the brew’s usual antics.
The flagship brand of Anheuser-Busch InBev in the U.S. isn’t going to show up in a national TV commercial during the February 12 Super Bowl broadcast on Fox. Instead, a commercial that re-introduces the seminal motto, “This Bud’s For You,” will air during local commercial breaks in 14 specific markets where beer executives feel they can reach a younger consumer base the think will to be interested in the beer.
This isn’t the first time Budweiser has skipped the national ad roster — but its absences are quite rare. In 2021, the King of Beers sat on the sidelines for the first time in 37 years as its parent company chose to highlight other beers during the event (PepsiCo and Coca-Cola also opted to sideline their flagship brands as the nation grappled with the coronavirus pandemic). Over the years, Budweiser and its stately Clydesdale horses have helped define the national mood, in happy times and sad.
“The Big Game will always have a role in our strategy,” says Kristina Punwani, the executive who heads up marketing for Budweiser, in an interview. “What we are trying to do this year is to be really, really smart and really tactical on hitting the consumer where they are at.” The goal, she says, is to reach potential customers in specific areas, while remaining confident that many people will be able to see the Budweiser ads via social and digital media.
First coined in 1979 and utilized in advertising in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the four-word slogan suggested Budweiser was a reward after one’s job was finished for the day. Now, says Punwani, the mantra can apply to side hustles and the gig economy as well. A new ad shows real people — a food-truck operator and a hip-hop entrepreneur, among others, passing around a six-pack of Budweiser as actor Kevin Bacon (famous for being six degrees from any one you might know) narrates the action. The last beer is offered to the viewer.
Anheuser-Busch InBev isn’t the first to make use of local commercials during the Super Bowl. Boston Beer and Diageo PLC have both taken to local markets to tout beverages like Sam Adams or Guinness. Such tactics helped the brewers skirt the high prices of national ad inventory as well as edicts of a deal that made Anheuser-Busch the exclusive malt beverage sponsor of the Super Bowl.
Now Budweiser is also focusing on narrower crowds, and intends to build on its efforts, which will be seen in places including New York City, Philadelphia and parts of California.
The focus on reaching younger consumers with the venerable slogan is expected to continue throughout 2023 says Punwani. And one absence from the Super Bowl’s national advertising shouldn’t be taken as a sign of more, she adds: “We will always have a role in this moment of culture. Consumers expect something of us and we want to make sure we deliver that, and do that to the right consumer bases.”