The Super Bowl 2020 drinks ad showdown - focus

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As the on-field action went delightfully off-script in this year's Super Bowl - Kansas City Chiefs rallied late to beat the San Francisco 49s - the ads inbetween rarely strayed far from the tried-and-tested.

The commercials in marketing's most expensive real estate (estimated at about US$5m for 30 seconds) displayed the usual mix of humour and/or patriotism. Those from the beverage sector were no different. Firms including The Coca-Cola Co and Anheuser-Busch InBev are some of the biggest spenders at the Super Bowl, and rarely take risks, which is a shame considering that the commericals consumers remember are those that do. But tucked in between the usual celebrity cameos, CGI mascots and big-name actors slumming it for a linebacker-sized paycheck, there were some interesting ideas, mainly around connecting with consumers on the newer social media platforms such as Tik Tok. And as always, the Super Bowl spend being as large as it is, the ads give industry watchers guidance on which direction companies are tilting their budgets in the US.

There was also a bit of score-settling, which is always fun to see. The best was Molson Coors' Saint Archer ad - the brewer's sly slam on rival A-B InBev was worthy of its own on-field analysis, and multiple action replays.

Coca-Cola's Coke Energy

The Coca-Cola Co kept its powder dry at this year's Super Bowl and didn't release an ad for its flagship soda. Instead, all attention was on Coca-Cola Energy, the energy drink released in the US last month. Martin Scorsese and actor Jonah Hill, whom Scorsese directed in The Wolf of Wall Street, do the heavy lifting in a commercial that should pave the way for Coca-Cola's all-out blitz on the energy drink category in the US this year. Management at Monster Beverage Corp, already irked by partner Coca-Cola's infiltration of its territory, may not have enjoyed watching the Super Bowl this year. 


Pepsi Zero Sugar

Pepsi is the main sponsor of the Super Bowl's famous half-time show, which this year featured Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. Meanwhile, PepsiCo gave a sideways dig at rival Coca-Cola in its Pepsi Zero Sugar ad - Missy Elliott and Grammy-award winner H.E.R. are shown breaking out of the torpor induced by a familiar looking red soda can.

Mtn Dew Zero

The team at Mtn Dew Zero went for a heady mix of humour and nostalgia, and were generally successful with their twist on horror film classic The Shining. Mtn Dew Zero is another recently released product and PepsiCo look to be giving it as big a shove as possible out of the gate. The company also linked the brand with on-trend social media platform Tik Tok, issuing dance challenges to Mtn Dew drinkers. The best of today's Super Bowl ads demand attention beyond game day.


When PepsiCo acquired SodaStream in 2018, many wondered what would happen to the at-home carbonation brand's Super Bowl commericals that took at large soda makers such as, erm... PepsiCo. Unsurprisingly, SodaStream's first ad since the takeover does not bite the hand that bought it. Instead, it is a humorous riff on Matt Damon's 2015 The Martian movie and shows just how valuable water is for the company's products.

A-B InBev

Bud Light Seltzer

This year, A-B InBev had six Super Bowl ad slots, and used them to showcase a mix of the usual and the new. The new came in the form of Bud Light Seltzer, the hard seltzer launched only last month. In a bid for consumer interaction, A-B InBev asked the public to vote on two possible ads, both featuring rapper Post Malone. The one above was the winner, by reportedly 0.4% of the vote.

The ad continues an idiosyncrasy of Bud Light Seltzer's marketing to date - it makes clear there is no Bud Light in Bud Light Seltzer. I'm guessing A-B InBev market research has flagged consumer confusion over this issue. But it will leave people asking the question - if there's no Bud Light in Bud Light Seltzer, then why call it Bud Light Seltzer?


This year's Budweiser ad doesn't stray too far from the brand's usual formula (a better one was shown in Canada), and is designed to stir the emotions rather than whet the appetite. Hard working Americans are shown as everyday heroes - route-one marketing for Budweiser. There is, however, a real-life clip of a protestor hugging a policeman. Is this an A-B InBev dig at PepsiCo's Kendall Jenner debacle of 2017?

Presidente Beer

A-B InBev used one of its slots to tell America that baseball star - and J-Lo finacee - Alex Rodriguez is the new chairman of its Presidente Beer. The Dominican Republic-based Presidente is well-known in Miami - the Super Bowl ad could signal a US expansion is imminent.

Michelob Ultra

A-B InBev pulled in late-night chat show star Jimmy Fallon and ex-wrestler-turned-actor John Cena for a fitness-themed Michelob Ultra ad. It also released an ad for Michelob Ultra Pure Gold which focussed on its organic certification.

All well and good, but hardly groundbreaking. Indeed, Michelob Ultra made more of an impact with an appearance in another Super Bowl ad...

Molson Coors

Saint Archer Gold

Molson Coors and A-B InBev were at loggerheads last year over accusations made about each other's beer ingredients. The feud started out in adverts but ended up in court. Molson Coors' regional Super Bowl ad for its craft Saint Archer Gold shows the fight is not yet over. In a dig, the ad's protagonist (actually a co-founder of San Diego-based Saint Archer) is shown skateboarding around a number of convenience stores looking for a Saint Archer Gold multi-pack. In each store, the beer is sold out. There's plenty of Michelob Ultra, however, and packs of the low-cal Ultra are pointedly stacked next to an empty Saint Archer bay. Does our skateboarding hero pick one up? What do you think?

The Rest 

There was little action away from the big Super Bowl advertisers. Brown-Forman launched a low-key ad on a selection of regional affiliate channels.

Hint Water, an unsweetened fruit-flavoured bottled water company that was founded in 2005, made a Super Bowl debut with - to my mind - a disturbing spot that shows one man licking encrusted fruit off another man's face.

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