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Purpose-focused Communications

Did Budweiser “Roll the Dice” with their Super Bowl Sunday Ad?

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Last week, when we went looking for a brand that was willing to stand for something as a way of standing apart during this year’s Super Bowl, we were in for quite a surprise.

No less than the stalwart beer brand of middle America, Budweiser, focused their “Born the Hard Way” Super Bowl ad on the currently divisive theme of immigration.

Let’s think about this for just a moment …

On the Tuesday after the President initiated the weekend immigration ban,  the beer brand of America’s “everyman” came out with a commercial celebrating its immigrant founders.

Given that this commercial was in production for many weeks prior to the ban, it’s obvious that this wasn’t made because of the ban. That’s not the story.

The real story is that they decided to run the ad despite the lightning rod issue that immigration had become in the week before the big game.

And who really doubts that Budweiser and their agency knew exactly what they were getting into, in terms of potential blowback?

Sure enough, in advance of the game, #BoycottBudweiser tweets such as this one began to appear:

But on the otherhand, albeit not in the same numbers, people began to respond with #BuyBudweiser messages:

Which leads us to this $60,000 question: Has Budweiser (and other brands this year, including Coca Cola) rolled the dice, placing a bet that in the big scheme of things more people are going to come down on the side of inclusiveness, than not?

And as a follow up question: Between reading the tea leaves and their own data-driven consumer insights, does Budweiser know something about a majority of American consumers that actually made this a safe bet for them?

Or will the #BoycottBudweiser blowback create a problem for them with their shareholders?

At the end of the day, if getting attention was their primary objective, they won. As of this morning, AdAge is reporting that “Born the Hard Way” is receiving the most online views of the other Super Bowl ads.

But there’s more to it than that.

As we’ve been observing for some time now, brands that focus upon their purpose are outperforming competitors in the same sector. It turns out that “Doing good to do well” and “out-behaving the competition” are increasingly important to building and holding onto brand loyalty.

If so, Budweiser has hedged a bet that the conversation around immigration that they’ve decided to join will, in the long run, favor their brand. It’s a roll of the dice, which seems apropos. An immigrant rolls the dice when leaving behind one place for another, an often risky move in which only time will tell whether it was the right one to make or not.