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After a year of backlash, Bud Light returns to the Super Bowl

It’s been anything but a light year for America’s second-best selling beer.

In what seems to be an attempt at a comeback, Anheuser-Busch will be running a 60-second Bud Light commercial in this year’s Super Bowl. The brand faced conservative backlash in 2023 for its campaign with transgender creator Dylan Mulvaney, which contributed to sinking sales. In addition to losing its place as America’s No. 1-selling beer to Modelo, the brand also lost its first female VP of marketing, Alissa Heinerscheid, as a result of extended boycotts.

A teaser for this year’s ad, which shows a man in a Peyton Manning Broncos jersey recognizing a mustachioed man in sunglasses to the tune of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride,” indicates a return to the more male-focused image that Heinerscheid once said she was trying to shed. (Her comments added fuel to the flames as boycotters were…smashing beer cans on the ground and firing a gun at cases of Bud Light.)A lot is riding on the Super Bowl ad for Bud Light, which last year lost its perch as America’s top-selling beer to Mexican pilsner Modelo Especial. Revenue at Anheuser-Busch’s U.S. division tumbled 13.5% in its most recently reported quarterly results, largely driven by a decline in Bud Light sales.

“The Super Bowl is advertising’s biggest moment, and our goal is to once again captivate our audience when the world is watching,” said Kyle Norrington, chief commercial officer at Anheuser-Busch in a Wednesday statement.

A-B didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

Super Bowl advertising
The Super Bowl is typically the biggest television event of the year, often drawing more than 100 million viewers. Because of that large audience, advertisers pay millions to gain a spot during the broadcast: Trade publication AdAge reported that a 30-second spot costs $7 million this year.

But securing Super Bowl ad time isn’t enough to guarantee success. For every great commercial, like Apple’s iconic Orwellian “1984” ad during Super Bowl XVII in 1984, there are ads that stumble or fall flat, like the infamous Just for Feet commercial in 1999 that was decried as racist.

A winning ad, though, can help build a brand’s image, and even spur sales.

Bud Light had a spot in last year’s Super Bowl, months before the Dylan Mulvaney controversy. The 2023 Super Bowl ad featuring actor Miles Teller from “Top Gun: Maverick” dancing in a living room with his his real-life wife, Keleigh Sperry, after cracking open two cans of Bud Light, received generally positive ratings.

Since the Mulvaney controversy, the beer has sought to stabilize its image by reverting to traditional male-focused concepts, with an ad rolled out last year featuring Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce. The spot featured Kelce among middle-aged suburban men settling into lawn chairs with grunts and groans. Once settled, some of them pop open cans of Bud Light.

Messi to make Super Bowl debut
A-B said it will also air two other Super Bowl ads, with one for Budweiser and the other for Michelob Ultra.

The latter will feature global soccer icon Lionel Messi. A teaser to what will be a 60-second spot shows the World Cup champion and Inter Miami star ordering a Michelob Ultra as he walks up to a bar, and his reaction when the tap stops pouring.

The Ultra ad will be Messi’s first Super Bowl commercial, adding to his massive advertising reach in the U.S. and globally.

His partnership with Michelob Ultra’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, began in 2020. The Super Bowl spot is part of the beer’s sizable investment in soccer. The ad follows the brand being revealed as the global beer sponsor of this summer’s Copa America.

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