Beer's Super Bowl makeover
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Feb 08, 2006
By Cold, Hard Football Facts sud stud Lew Bryson
Remember the heavily hyped Super Bowl matchups that never delivered? The 55-10 blowouts of yesteryear that left you more interested in the foosball table or the hot wings and beer? That's kind of how I felt after the much-ballyhooed Beer Institute ad that ran during the 4th quarter of Super Bowl XL. I'm not one of those geeks who say the best part of the Super Bowl is the ads – I was there for the game, Iron City hat and all – but I wanted to see this ad, and when it came on, I stepped in front of the plasma screen and shut up everyone in the room.
For weeks we'd been hearing about a new marketing campaign to rebuild the image of beer – not Budweiser or Miller Lite or Pabst – beer. The recent flat sales of beer (mainstream American beer, that is), contrasted with the continued growth of wine and liquor sales, are preying on the well-paid minds of the big brewers.
They've come to the realization (as my much-less-well-paid mind did back in 2004) that beer has an image problem. Yes, we drink plenty of beer. But all the ads the big brewers bought over the past 15 years that humorously portrayed beer as the drink of goofy dorks ... made beer look goofy and dorky. "People will tell you that beer is not sophisticated enough, or stylish enough, to compete with wine and spirits," Tom Long, Miller's chief marketing officer, was quoted as saying in the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 17, 2005). "Why do they think that? Well, I believe it's because we told them to."
So Anheuser-Busch, the author of much of this goofy dorkdom, has decided to lead the charge to regain beer's good name. Never mind that the A-B ads we saw during the game still said nothing about the beer (except the now-familiar Bud Select ad featuring Augie Busch IV, which tried to say something about a beer that just doesn't have much to say), and never mind that as far as the craft brewers are concerned, beer doesn't need to be redefined. A-B donated one of its Super Bowl spots in the 4th quarter to the Beer Institute, the beer industry's trade association, to present a non-branded message about beer in general.
The spot would be the opening shot in a marketing campaign that A-B hopes will unite the brewers (meaning the big brewers) and the Beer Institute in an effort to re-position beer's image. It links with a website that A-B and the Institute intend to use as a showcase for that effort: www.HeresToBeer.com. The website went live on Super Bowl Sunday, and I took a look before the game started.
The website looks like those pricey Gallo ads with the Vangelis soundtrack that ran 20 years ago: gobs of atmosphere, fields of barley and hops, and smiling people hoisting the product. There are historical timelines of brewing and beer drinking, a section on beer and food, an interactive "what's your (beer) style" quiz, and a brief tutorial on the brewing process, among other things.
There is also, unfortunately, a section on the regrettable "beertails," mixing beer with other drinks. I have no problem with a nice straightforward Black Velvet (stout and champagne) or Redeye (lager and tomato juice). But what the hell is a "Moonglow": a bottle of American amber, Amaretto, half-and-half, Bailey's, and minced mint leaves? Keerist, you've gotta be kidding me! This is supposed to elevate beer's image? We need a hacker to deep-six that area.
The beautiful thing about the website is that it acknowledges and even celebrates the existence of styles of beer other than the mainstream "regular" and "light" beers so common in America. Bitters, triples, bocks and IPAs all get their due, even the intentionally sour and funky lambic beers, and that's been a long time coming. Acknowledging that there are other kinds of beer goes a long way towards making beer more interesting to the general consumer – not to mention making those ridiculous "beertails" completely unnecessary.
We need to see more of the great diversity of beer, because otherwise the idea of pairing beer and food – so crucial to wine sales – will be a ridiculous exercise. There's got to be a lot of thought going into this at A-B, because they know that you can't pair American light lager with everything, but that's what they make the most money at, and that's what they continue to pour the most money into advertising – naturally.
But they will not be able to change beer's image without expanding it, and that's going to mean a complete 180 from the path they've been on since the 1960s: that the beer they sell is beer, and darker beers, heavier beers, more bitter beers, more flavorful beers are all somehow not really beer because they aren't American light lager. Variety is a necessary component to a successful campaign, and that's going to be tough for their business. A-B is taking some steps towards that variety, but real variety is years away.
Will A-B be able to hold that course for the years they'll need to change the image they've created? A journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first six-pack, I always say, so I stepped up in front of the screen to see this first shot in the war. What did I see? Go to www.herestobeer.com and take a look (then go to "The Theater" tab and click on "View: 60 spot" to see a longer, better version).
Was it worth it? Nah. It was all atmosphere and no substance. "Here's to beer"? Toasting beer? Why? They never gave one good reason.
A-B did a better series of ads some years ago, and I think they were more effective. In one, a young farmer and an old one stand side-by-side at a fence, and the young one tells the old one he would like to marry his daughter. The old fellow consents, reaches in the cooler sitting in the bed of the nearby pickup, and says, "Son, have a mackerel," as he hauls out a pair of fish. "Things would be weird without beer" is the tagline.
Without traveling all over the world having folks toast beer itself in varied languages, without a folksy soundtrack, the fish commercial makes its point. Beer is part of everyday life and celebration. Beer is, and always has been, more a part of American life than wine. You don't have to be an idiot frat boy to drink it. Beer is always around. Things would be weird without beer.
(And just one more Super Bowl note...now that Pittsburgh actually won the Super Bowl, don't stop drinking Iron City. Now that you've tried it, and you know it doesn't taste like oil or rust or any of that other ridiculous crap some guy told you back in high school, buy more. The brewery could use the help.)
Forearm Shiver: the CHFF Blog
- Hockey Announcer Gone Wild: You Want To Party (Maybe) With This Guy
- Best Pass Defense Ever: Ronde Barber And The 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Reese Witherspoon Arrest Video: Hot, Bothered And Handcuffed
- Sam Adams In A Can, Just In Time For Summer Drinking Season
- Live From Radio City: Reporter Punks NFL Draft Fans
- The 5.0 Club: Best Rushing Teams in NFL History
- Sieves: The Worst Run Defenses In NFL History
- Monsters of the Midway: We Need The Chicago Bears More Than Ever
- Boston, Sports, Patriotism And Terror
- The 100 Stingiest Defenses In Football History
- NFL Crown Rule: Will It Dethrone Rushing King Adrian Peterson?
- Year Of The Offensive Tackle: Not Always The 'Safe' Draft Bet
- Draft Habits: NFL Teams Covet LBs, Duped By False Temptress WRs
- Big Tease: 2012 New England Patriots And NFL's History Of Offensive Failures
- Epic Fail: The Wide Receiver Draft Class Of 2012
Must See Videos