Budweiser “Stands By” Its Emotional Approach to Superbowl Advertising

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I’m going to be straight with you, I am not a sports fan. Sure, I’ll watch for the food and beer, but this Sunday is different. It’s the Superbowl. Which means, in between snacking on jalapeño appetisers and the game itself, the ads. And the Superbowl is, well…The Superbowl, for advertisers. Brands bring their A game for a whole ‘lotta eyeballs. Last year, brands got political. Advertisers like Audi, Budweiser, Airbnb, and 84 Lumber made statements of acceptance, equality, and empathy during a time marked by hateful rhetoric and xenophobia. But one of my favorite spots was Budweiser’s story detailing the long and arduous journey of the founder from Germany to America. Highlighting the strength and determination of immigrants, they subtly defied the new president’s efforts to demonise them.

A lot has happened since the last Superbowl. We’ve seen protests, investigations, social movements, and natural disasters. Are we going to see brands acknowledging and taking a stand on these topics? Budweiser was one of the first the release their spot online and it seems to continue the theme of communicating their company’s values in a timely way. The commercial documents their response to the series of hurricanes in places like Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico over an emotional rendition of “Stand By Me.” We follow Kevin Fahrenkrog, the General Manager of Anheuser-Busch’s Catersville, Georgia brewery through their relief efforts – switching the operations over to fill cans with water for victims of natural disasters. What a lot of people don’t know, and wouldn’t know from this spot alone, is that this Georgia brewery has delivered water to areas that need it for over 30 years. During a time marked by division, fear, and disaster, Budweiser reminds us of an innate desire to help those in danger.  (*edit: has since been followed up by Stella Artois’ support for water.org via the purchase of their chalices.)e

The rest of the released Superbowl ads take on a comical tone.  In effect, a room of ad execs who have decided we need a little escape from the scary world outside. But what are they doing to improve things out there? I see a missed opportunity to take a stand for something, and reinforce values that people are fighting to uphold, helping fight for a cause. It will be interesting to see if any other brands follow Budweiser’s lead. I’ll be filling the time “watching” football until I can find out.




Alison O'Shaughnessy

Ali is a marketing professional with a passion for using the power of business and media to enact real change. She's originally from New Jersey and moved to New York to work in cause marketing and non-profit advertising. Her need for fresh air and interest in weaving sustainability into the fabric of companies through meaningful and authentic communications sent her to Oregon where she's currently getting her MBA in sustainable business practices from University of Oregon. You can read more posts from Ali at causechangecomms.com.