Budweiser is an iconic Super Bowl advertiser with its ads always ranking as favorites among viewers. Who can forget Clydesdale horses, the frogs Bud, Weis, and Er, and loyal puppies? This year, the beer's parent company Anheuser-Busch In-Bev has three shots at winning over the audience.
Working with agency Anomaly, one ad will build upon last year's "Puppy Love" spot to further illustrate how dogs are truly man's best friend. The second spot by Anomaly will establish Bud as the “King of Beers” through its quality, craft, and innovation.
Meanwhile, agency EnergyBBDO will debut an ad for Bud Light that taps into Millennials' sense of nostalgia. Similar to Honda's recent ads that showcase Strawberry Shortcake and Skeletor, Bud Light's spot will feature a Millennial enjoying an evening with Pac-Man as they become part of a real-life interactive game.
Budweiser says it has learned a lot in the last two years (including the two Super Bowls and last year's World Cup sponsorship) on how to effectively reach Millennials, a key priority for the beverage brand. Young drinkers aren't satisfied with traditional media, but rather prefer to build a relationship with brands through multi-channel initiatives. To this end, Bud Light - which executives say is their number one priority in the U.S. - is part of the company’s Whatever, USA platform that hosts parties in select towns.
Hence, before kick-off, Bud Light will host a three-day on-site party in Phoenix, Arizona, the host of this year's Super Bowl.
Indeed, such events have helped the brand build brand loyalty, the company believes. Last summer's Whatever event in Colorado, for example, reached nearly 90% of the 21- to 27-year-old population in the U.S. and the beer brand had "almost two million on-premise interactions." Over 200,000 individuals submitted videos to audition for a role in this program.
And the Whatever, USA program created almost 40,000 pieces of content, which resulted in an engagement rate that was nearly 40% higher than the engagement rate the company saw in last year's Super Bowl, company executives said.
In addition to on-site activations, Anheuser-Busch is introducing digital apps to further engage these large scale audiences. Although the brand has not revealed details for the Super Bowl, World Cup fans helped Anheuser-Busch receive more than four million votes for its Budweiser Man of the Match voting platform that was integrated into a FIFA World Cup app.
Anheuser-Busch has also adjusted its media buying after previously purchasing spots with the in-house Busch Media Group. "But as the media landscape changed, what we see is that the Busch Media Group that was very, very good at buying sports and traditional media on TV was not as well-equipped because of the volume they buy, not because of anything else, but because of the sheer scale of this other new media," says CEO Carlos Alves de Brito during a call with investors.
"So we decided to look around and we found, of course -- we did a benchmark and we found other media companies that their sole purpose in life is to plan and buy media. And when you look at the WPP, the biggest [media buyer] in the world, they buy media at a better price, especially the new digital and alternative medias compared to Busch Media Group that only buy to ourselves."
In October, AB InBev appointed WPP’s Mediacom for U.S. media planning and buying duties after a review.
This change has been accompanied by an increase in the media budget. Sales and marketing investments increased by 11.1% year-to-date in 2014. "So with the same amount of money, we're going to have more media pressure next year, for example, and that's great for the business," says Alves de Brito. "So we're very happy with this change. Busch Media Group did an amazing job for many years, and now it's time to change."
Meanwhile, one key difference between this year's Super Bowl and its previous large-scale event the World Cup is a smaller brand portfolio. Several brands were showcased during the World Cup tournament, including Budweiser, Brahma, Quilmes, Hasseröder, Jupiler, Beck's, Cass, Harbin and Siberian Crown, to help connect local fans with local brands. This year's Super Bowl, by comparison, will only feature Budweiser and Bud Light as those two brands are priorities for the company right now.