The Super Bowl attracts more than 100 million viewers every year. Anheuser-Busch is trying to connect with the texting and Snapchat- and Instagram-using millennials among them.
The company, which usually buys more commercial time than any other advertiser during the Super Bowl, wants to appeal to a younger generation of 20-something beer drinkers, a large portion of whom it said had never tasted a Budweiser.
“They are the future of the beer category,” said Jorn Socquet, vice president for U.S. marketing at Anheuser-Busch, the exclusive beer advertiser for the Super Bowl. “If we do not get Budweiser and Bud Light in the hands of those consumers, the beer category could become in serious trouble.”
In South Carolina, macro-brewed lagers such as Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon are longstanding favorites, though there also are now 20 craft production breweries and 14 brew pubs scattered across the landscape – presenting almost a natural draw to millenials.
“These are certainly the beer drinkers of the future,” said Brook Bristow, South Carolina Brewer’s Guild executive director, who runs the craft brewer’s state trade association. “I understand (why) Budweiser and the big macro-brewers are trying to reach that audience. Everyone is going to be fighting over that pie.”
On Wednesday, the company announced that it is preparing three 60-second commercials, with corresponding digital campaigns, to promote its Budweiser and Bud Light brands during the game this year. The Super Bowl ranks as the biggest event on television each year, and advertising during the game is by far the most expensive. At 112.2 million viewers, last year’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos was the most-watched event in television history, according to the ratings firm Nielsen.
Super Bowl XLIX, to be broadcast by NBC on Feb. 1, is no exception. Commercial time is selling for a record $4.5 million per 30-second spot - or $150,000 a second. That is up 12.5 percent from the $4 million for last year’s game on Fox and up 88 percent from $2.4 million a decade ago, according to Kantar Media, a research firm owned by the advertising conglomerate WPP.
Marketing executives said the steep price was worth it, given that the Super Bowl is one of the few events that attract a mass audience eager to watch commercials. Advertisers, including Pepsi, Snickers and Dove Men and Care, also plan to tap a range of social media to promote their spots.
Social media and word-of-mouth are the kinds of mediums through which younger drinkers find out about craft beers and local beers, South Carolina’s Bristow said, because, obviously, these small brewers don’t have the advertising or marketing budgets to compete against a Budweiser, MillerCoors, or Pabst. They certainly can’t afford to buy a spot on the Super Bowl, he said.
“We’re probably not ever going to be able to do that,” Bristow said. And that’s OK. “We’re comfortable with the word of mouth – the grassroots. That’s where we live and that’s where we die, and that’s probably not going to change.”
Still, for some it might be hard to imagine a young beer drinker on a budget who has never tasted the inexpensive, yellow fizziness of a standard American-brewed beer, Bristow said. Craft beers have evolved, though – consumers, too, he said, and beer drinkers give more thought to how they want to spend their money.
“These aren’t your dad’s Budweiser (drinkers) of the past,” Bristow said. “It’s a totally different demographic now and consumer choices have changed quite a bit since that time. We’re certainly aware of that in the craft community. We’re also aware that Budweiser and a lot of the macro-brewers are continuing to see their sales decrease, year in and year out.”
The target market Anheuser-Busch is going after – the so-called millenials – are certainly gravitating toward drinking craft beers and drinking local beers, Bristow said. “That’s certainly true here in South Carolina. So, yeah, everyone’s going to be fighting over these guys.”
Socquet of Anheuser-Busch said the Super Bowl game was one of the rare places that a marketer was guaranteed to capture the attention of a young adult. “The average span of attention for the millennial is eight seconds, but on the Super Bowl, they actually give you their undivided attention,” Socquet said.
Staff writer Roddie Burris and the New York Times contributed.