This year’s annual parade of ads mostly failed to inspire, and will prove equally weak in moving their brands, for a simple reason: They didn’t introduce or extend an idea that connects them to audiences every day.
Bud Light did. And in doing so it not only won the night, it set up to win a lot of games in the months ahead.
How they did it can serve as a big-events playbook for CMOs and CEOs alike.
They shared new information of value. Corn syrup in beer was not a thing on anyone’s mind prior to Sunday night.
Bud Light introduced a new dividing line that shifted focus from the burgeoning craft industry to the two other big industry players. Bud Light stands to steal market share among “beer drinkers who have stayed” as a result.
They amplified an existing position. In sports context, they played the game that got them there. Most of the other advertisers created new strategies, personae and narrative solely for the occasion, thinking the Big Game demanded they be something more than they are.
The dilly dilly Middle Ages crew, including Bud Knight, are recognizably Bud Light thanks to a campaign that has been running for 18 months! Because the context was familiar, the audience could digest the one new element -- that other big brewers use corn syrup -- very smoothly.
They upped the ante in message. This came in two ways. First, they named an enemy -- Miller and Coors -- rather than alluding to a generic one (craft beer).
Second, they added scale to the “kingdom” on the 60-second “hero’s journey.”
Third, they leveraged the huge pop equity of Game of Thrones -- and did it in a self-deprecating way that fit the tongue-in-cheek campaign and balanced the edginess of calling out the competition.
They sequenced the story. There was a narrative over multiple ads that built on and supported each other, creating a story within the game. The comedic drama kept it fresh and interesting.
Bud Light didn’t get psyched out by the Super Bowl. They clearly approached it as another game, albeit with a bigger audience -- both viewers and press -- they could use to start something big.
In other words, they saw a marketing continuum beyond a creative event.
That’s the differentiator for the C-suites that keep wrestling with whether big televised events like the Super Bowl are worth the cost. They are when you have something to say that advances and extends the meaning and narrative of your brand for the world’s biggest audiences.