Anheuser-Busch is rolling out a $50 million advertising campaign for Bud Light playing up the beer's “drinkability,” trying to set the brand apart as rival MillerCoors waits until the new year to release new ads for its big seller, Miller Lite.
Bud Light's new ads, which start airing Saturday during college football, feature situations ranging from a football game to a pool party to tell consumers that all light beer isn't the same and Bud Light has taste but won't fill them up.
“Light beer as a category has become a little bit more ubiquitous and so differentiating yourself within the array of choices that exist for consumers, to me that's going to win the game,” said Keith Levy, vice president of brand management.
The St. Louis-based brewer, which is selling itself to Belgian brewer InBev SA, said consumers told the brewer Bud Light had enough flavor and is easy to swallow – two factors that help make it a beer that people can drink. The ads boast the tag line: “Bud Light, the difference is drinkability.” That replaces “Bud Light keeps it coming” and before that, “Make it a Bud Light.”
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While other companies across a variety of industries are curtailing their advertising spending amid the economic slowdown, Anheuser-Busch is pushing its biggest brand hard. The beer industry is considered relatively recession proof. Indeed, Anheuser-Busch's overall sales were up 2 percent this summer, with help from the new Bud Light Lime offshoot.
The television ads use humor to position Bud Light against other light beers, a category that is now considered the industry standard. But the ads don't name specific competitors.
“When you're the biggest brand in the world, it's more valuable for you as a brand to talk about yourself versus somebody else,” Levy said.
In an ad featuring a pool party, one person says he doesn't care which light beer he has because they all taste the same. Not so, says a man who appears as all the others in the background freeze.
“Does bath water taste the same as spring water?” he says, putting bird bath water into a man's cup.
“Does ground beef taste the same as beef on the ground?” he asks as beef falls from a hamburger flipper to the grass.
No, he says. Bud Light is different.
“It has just the right taste without being too heavy,” he said.
Bud Light held a 39 percent share of the light beer segment in 2007, said Eric Shepard, executive editor of trade publication Beer Marketer's Insights. Miller Lite had a 17.2 percent share, while Coors Light had a 15.3 percent share, he said. This year, Coors Light sales have been up a bit, while Miller Lite has been down. Bud Light was up just slightly, he said.