Eschewing celebrities – and presumably puppies – Anheuser-Busch will focus on brand values in Super Bowl 51

Just in time for Super Bowl 51, Bud Light has a new tagline.

Brewing company Anheuser-Busch is returning as “exclusive category advertiser” for the 2017 Super Bowl and will feature four of its brands – Super Bowl veterans Budweiser, Bud Light and Michelob Ultra, as well as newcomer Busch.

But instead of a one-off creative, the brand is using this moment to kick off campaigns for each brand that we’ll see for the remainder of the year. And instead of Helen Mirren and Amy Schumer, these efforts will focus on each brand’s core values.

Anheuser-Busch said it will have at least three minutes of ads in the NFL championship game, including creative in each quarter this year, which marks its 28th consecutive year as a Super Bowl advertiser.

Anheuser-Busch said “several” commercials and campaigns will be released on digital platforms prior to the February 5 broadcast. At a media briefing on January 17, representatives clarified the brand will not pre-release its Busch spot and it is still deciding whether to debut a Bud Light teaser prior to the game.

Noting the US is Anheuser-Busch’s most complex and mature beverage market, Marcel Marcondes, vice president of marketing and US CMO, acknowledged a proliferation of beer brands in the space overall in recent years that has been “intense.”

“We used to say, ‘It’s a complex market. Consumers have choices,’ but now we see more signs they are overwhelmed,” Marcondes said. “There are so many brands to choose from. There are more than 9000 breweries, so when they are in front of the beer shelf, it’s hard to choose.”

As a result, it’s more important than ever that brands stand for something strong and clear.

“That’s absolutely crucial. We need to make [consumers’] lives easier,” Marcondes said. “They need to understand what we stand for in a simple way.”

Here’s how Anheuser-Busch will reflect that sentiment in Super Bowl 51:

Bud Light: Famous Among Friends

Bud Light, which just so happens to be the Official Beer of the NFL, is not only getting a 60-second Super Bowl spot, but a new tagline as well: “Famous Among Friends.”

Per Marcondes, the tagline is a summary of what the brand is doing now – and will hopefully be doing for the next few years. The brand added the ad, which was created with agency partner Wieden + Kennedy New York, is “part of a larger campaign tied to Bud Light’s role in cementing friendships.”

“What you’re going to see is not epic. It doesn’t involve celebrities. We are making the bravest decision we could have made in my humble point of view, but it’s by far the right decision. Let’s just be Bud Light. That’s the best thing we can do,” Marcondes said. “Let’s not try to convince [consumers] about Bud Light…let’s just be who we are – we are confident enough that Bud Light is such an icon. We didn’t become the leading brand in this company just by chance.”

Marcondes said the brand reached this decision “after reviewing decades of footage and lots of people involved in the history of brand,” which led to “a very simple conclusion: Bud Light has always been about social moments and bringing people together. It’s a fun, nice time together with people you like.”

And unlike last year when the brand tapped Amy Schumer and Seth Rogan, Marcondes said Bud Light felt it didn’t need star power this year because it “believes in the power of Bud Light behaving as Bud Light and having those moments of friendship that are so meaningful.”

When asked if the tone will be funny or serious, Marcondes said the term he uses internally is “meaningful fun.”

Budweiser: The pursuit of the American Dream

Following what might be considered a lackluster reception last year – particularly on the heels of the infamous puppy – Budweiser will focus on dreamers in 2017 and “draw inspiration from the story of its founder, Adolphus Busch, to celebrate the brand’s enduring ambition and hustle in pursuit of the American dream – 141 years and counting.”

Marcondes said putting “America” on Budweiser labels is another strong statement that showed courage and confidence and Budweiser, too, wants to be true to its brand values and communicate that it is “not backing down from [its] beliefs and dreams.”

That, in turn, is why Budweiser will focus on founder Busch, who “wanted to build biggest, best brewery in the planet,” Marcondes said.

What's more, the spot was shot in New Orleans, which Marcondes said is where Busch landed when he arrived in America.

“It’s all about the truth and about the winning spirit that those people have when they have a dream and they work hard every day until their dreams come true,” Marcondes said. “There is no more genuine way than that to talk about our own story and it was created over a dream.”

As a result, the brand will add “since 1876” to its “never backing down” messaging.

“It’s a beautiful story. It brings to life the brand purpose and to bring [Busch] to life, we had to be crystal clear that we stand for the winning spirit about making dreams come true,” Marcondes said.

“That’s why it is brewed the hard way. We are never compromising the dream and high standards. This is why we do feel comfortable putting America on our labels and we plan to do this again because it feels so natural to the brand.”

And this message of having a dream and working hard also connects to what Marcondes called key values in the US.

The brand has aired 101 commercials in the Super Bowl. The Budweiser campaign is handled by Anomaly.

Michelob Ultra: The active lifestyle

Following its 2016 Super Bowl debut, Michelob Ultra, which Anheuser-Busch noted is the fastest growing US beer brand, “will continue to celebrate those who live both an active and social lifestyle.”

The 30-second spot will continue the brand’s “Brewed for Those Who Go the Extra Mile” campaign for a second year, hoping to inspire consumers to feel they can work out and still go out. The Michelob Ultra campaign is led by FCB Chicago.

“What does [Michelob Ultra] stand for? Active lifestyle,” Marcondes said. “Period. Simple. Everyone can say that.”

Further, Marcondes said the spot celebrates active consumers who not only can have a beer after working out, but deserve to have a nice moment with friends after finding time to squeeze in a workout.

“Michelob Ultra is brewed for those who go the extra mile,” Marcondes said. “They not only can have a beer, but they deserve it.”

Busch: True to your name

Busch, or what Anheuser-Busch called “the leading beer franchise in the value segment,” will make its Super Bowl debut in 2017.

“Busch will introduce itself to a new generation of beer drinkers, drawing on decades of equity as a brand that stays true to its name,” a release said.

Per Marcondes, Anheuser-Busch hasn’t done much with Busch, but brought the brand back to Nascar last year, which the brand previously sponsored.

“What you’ll see in the Super Bowl is a simple piece with Busch being Busch at the same place Busch used to be and we’re going to behave in a Busch way and see what happens,” Marcondes said.

While he said he could not confirm a broader social movement toward more traditional values, Marcondes said it feels like “something is going on” when he talks to regional VPs about Busch and he has a hypothesis that more consumers may be drawn to Busch now because they are getting more connected to traditional values.

“People are asking a lot about our focus on the value segment and the answer is not really – this brand stands for those who are true to their names. It stands for more traditional values. This brand has our name on it and consumers value and trust it,” Marcondes said. “Listening to people, it feels like something is going on…the brand is performing really well. I can confirm the brand is growing, so the best way to answer you guys about why we’re taking Busch to the Super Bowl for the first time… is another question: Why not?”

Further, Marcondes said this is the beauty and privilege of having a strong portfolio of brands – Anheuser-Busch can easily connect to culturally relevant values.

“When something happens in society, we’re always there,” he added.

That being said, the brand did not take the 2016 election into consideration for any of its brands in the Super Bowl.

“It’s about being true to the brands, period,” Marcondes said. “We were not influenced about what might be going on in politics. We were also working [on the spots] long before the results of the election.”

In fact, the Busch creative was already in the works separately and the decision to air it during the Super Bowl was “more of a media decision,” Marcondes said. “Sometimes we launch a new brand [in the Super Bowl], but sometimes we place a different bet. Busch is definitely not a new brand, but it’s a bet. Let’s see how far it goes.”

The Busch campaign is led by Deutsch.

“Consumers get tired of campaigns that look like campaigns,” Marcondes said. “To respect the brand, they need to believe you’re telling the truth and doing what you’re doing because it is connected to the brand’s beliefs. I believe this is what modern consumers are looking for.”

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