It's 4th and goal for this year's Super Bowl, and beverage companies are continuing their traditionally hefty advertising presence at Sunday's (3 February) showpiece NFL event.

With a 30-second slot reported to cost an average US$3.8m, the ad men have gone all out to ensure their money doesn't go missing in the most expensive TV real estate of the year.

The usual suspects are represented, with perennial Anheuser-Busch InBev lining up support for Budweiser and Bud Light. There's a bit of twist this year as the brewer joins forces with PepsiCo to run a series of promotions before the big event. A-B InBev has also shaken things up by launching Super Bowl ads for latest premium product Beck's Sapphire and, more intriguingly, new craft beer Black Crown.

“Could a mass-produced 6% abv dark lager prosper in the US market? We’re about to find out,” said just-drinks' James Wilmore, who adds that Crown's Super Bowl exposure signals a new direction for A-B InBev. It's also a new direction for craft beer, and Wilmore wonders if Crown will find itself marooned between the sector's aficionados and InBev's desired mainstream Super Bowl audience.

According to Forbes, A-B InBev has been the biggest Super Bowl spender over the past decade, investing US$248.6m. The Coca-Cola Co came fourth on the list, with just $80.8m. It's a trend continued this year - compared to A-B InBev's four-and-a-half minutes, Coca-Cola's single one-minute commercial seems parsimonious.

However, the “Coke Chase” ad is fighting above its weight, and yesterday managed to grab much media attention after Arab-American groups branded it “racist” and depicting Arabs as “camel jockeys”. Coca-Cola immediately defended the ad, but if Super Bowl season is all about creating a stir, then the company has definitely succeeded.

SodaStream also found itself in trouble, with CBS refusing to air “The SodaStream Effect”, possibly because it lashed out at fellow Super Bowl advertisers Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. SodaStream, used to controversy over the ad after it was black-balled in the UK, agreed to air a tweaked version. The original offering can be seen below.

Kraft Foods seems to have sought its own controversy, with a trailer ad for its Mio Fit commercial using a bleeped-out profanity. 

PepsiCo, however, which came second on the list of the decade's biggest Super Bowl spenders, is stepping outside of the ad break to sponsor the Super Bowl half-time show. Pepsi brand ambassador Beyonce will lead the entertainment, with PepsiCo's ad slots lined up for a push on Pepsi Next, launched last year.

But with the vast amounts of money splurged on Sunday's event, the question is, is it worth it? According to the Washington Post, it can be, if the ads go viral. “What this year's Super Bowl advertisers need is the advertising equivalent of the new norovirus in order to infect the internet,” it said. Advertisers will be crossing their fingers and hoping it is their offering that has infected the watercoolers come Monday.

Expert analysis

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