The oddly defensive Budweiser ad that debuted during the Super Bowl, firing shots at craft breweries and those too persnickety to enjoy a real “macrobrew,” has spurred much debate from beer lovers and the craft beer industry. Rightfully so.
In its $9 million worth of airtime, the conglomerate said its beer “is not brewed to be fussed over,” using the tagline: “The people who drink our beer are people who like drinking beer. To drink beer brewed the hard way. Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale.”
I talked to several local craft beer industry greats to get their initial thoughts on the mocking ad. Surprisingly, feelings were mixed. Some were understandably baffled by the quarrelsome approach, others justly insulted, and a few even understood where Budweiser was coming from.
“I was shocked that [Budweiser] had the courage to pull something like that. But I can’t help but think they did something right, because they got people talking about their ad,” says Sean Geary, brand manager at Ipswitch-based Clown Shoes Beer. “I think it’s not in their best interest to polarize the fastest-growing segment of their industry. I also hope the people behind this ad aren’t going to be the people assembled to work in their newly forming craft beer division,” he jokes.
Rob Burns, Everett’s Night Shift Brewing cofounder and brewer, was more miffed, questioning how Bud could mock a peach pumpkin brew when the King of Beers has a portfolio of some of the “worst beers in the world.” (He notes Bud Light Lime-A-Rita.)
“I think [Budweiser] fired a big shot at the craft brewing industry, and really artisanal products of all types. They must be scared of us little guys if they needed to run that commercial,” says Burns, “I wish Bud the best, but I don’t think a marketing campaign like that is going to save their sinking market share. We’ll keep brewing our funky beers the hard way.”
On the flipside, Chris Lohring, founder of Notch Brewing (also in Ipswich), says he liked the ad and that it made him laugh. “When given the option of a pumpkin beer or a Bud Heavy, I’m drinking Bud Heavy every time,” he playfully says.
But in all seriousness, Lohring observes that the craft beer community spends a lot of time taking shots at Bud and Anheuser-Busch. He thinks some of it’s warranted, but some of it isn’t. And in this case, the Budweiser ad’s riposte falls within the same category. Some remarks were arguably spot-on, some no so much. “We [craft brewers] are an easy target, so we should get some thicker skin,” says Lohring.