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Comment - Was Anheuser-Busch's Anti-Craft Super Bowl Ad a Good Move?

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Does Anheuser-Busch see its anti-craft beer ad during last weekend's Super Bowl as a calculated risk?

Anheuser-Busch InBevs ad to revive Budweisers fortunes has provoked plenty of reaction

Anheuser-Busch InBev's ad to revive Budweiser's fortunes has provoked plenty of reaction

The brewer has caused a storm by having a dig at craft beer drinkers during one of its Budweiser spots during Sunday's big game (clue: it wasn't the ad with the cute dog). “It's (Budweiser) not brewed to be fussed over,” read the text in front of a bearded, bespectacled man. “It's brewed for drinking, not dissecting,” said another frame, with three hipster-types seen sampling beer from a tasting tray.

In case the message wasn't clear enough, a final dig was: “Let them drink their Pumpkin Peach Ale, we'll be brewing us some golden suds.” All this was relayed over an aggressive, drum-heavy soundtrack. (The ad can be viewed below). 

On the face of it, this strikes me as an odd move from A-B, considering it owns three craft brewers itself and is in the process of buying a fourth – Seattle's Elysian Brewing Co. Indeed, Elysian even brews a range of pumpkin beers.

CNN branded the 'Brewed the Hard Way' ad as “disingenuous and hypocritical”. Meanwhile, Fortune described the approach as “tone deaf and embarrassing” for A-B. Both cited the fact that the Budweiser brewer has been buying up craft players of late.

On its official Twitter feed, Budweiser moved to defend itself from some disgruntled tweeters. “We respect craft brewing. Beer is for all people,” read one tweet. “We're not anti-craft, just pro-Bud,” read another Budweiser tweet in response to a comment.

My hunch is that A-B, the US unit of Belgium's Anheuser-Busch InBev, regards this as a necessary - but slightly risky - strategy, in order to try to revive its core Budweiser brand in the US. Both sales and volumes of Budweiser fell in the US off-trade last year.

The brains behind the ad will no doubt have picked up on a wave of hipster hate, the same that any youth sub-culture inevitably seems to attract. In some ways, A-B is trying to reconnect the Budweiser brand with younger generations who have either been seduced by craft, or other categories – such as vodka or whisk(e)y.

And, who knows, Millennial hipsters - and even former Budweiser drinkers - might have even enjoyed the slightly aggressive, irreverent approach and will begin to see the brand in a new light? Was perhaps part of the aim to steal Pabst Blue Ribbon's crown as the working-man's beer, turned ironic hipster favourite? 

Seeing what A-B does next with Budweiser's marketing will make for fascinating viewing.


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