In an effort to thwart smaller brewing companies infringing on its market share, Budweiser launched a campaign mocking craft breweries. Yet the brand is simultaneously wooing craft beer drinkers with foodie-oriented and social campaigns.
Budweiser began the mockery with a Super Bowl ad: “Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale. We’ll be brewing us some golden suds.” It drew fire from Internet commenters, as did the latest Twitter post:
When it comes to advertising and social media platforms, the company overwhelms its craft beer rivals. Budweiser’s substantial digital investments helped the brand reach second place in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Beer, bested only by sister brand Bud Light. The two Anheuser-Busch beers dominated their rivals in advertising, generating both more ad impressions and more unique ad formats. Budweiser also created the top three YouTube videos. The brand’s “Puppy Love” had more than 58 million views, more than double the views of Bud Light’s “Real Life Pacman” and almost 10 times the views of Michelob Ultra’s “A Life Well Lived.”
This powerful reach extends to social media. Budweiser’s Facebook community dwarfs those of competitors. Posts on the Budweiser Facebook page saw more than 600,000 interactions in 90 days, in contrast to the average brand’s 88,060.
However, despite Budweiser’s domination of advertising and social media, nearly half of 21-to-27-year-old drinkers have never tasted the beer. A decade ago, Budweiser had a 14.4% share of the U.S. beer market. Today, that number has plunged to 7.6%, in large part due to the growing popularity of craft beers.
Craft breweries have yet to match the scale of giants like Budweiser parent Anheuser-Busch, which has a 47.2% share of the U.S. beer market. But this is rapidly changing. In 1980, there were only 44 craft breweries in the U.S. Last year, there were 3,418, accounting for nearly 20% of beer spending.
The industry, which saw sales rise 2% last year to $19.6 billion, is also growing through acquisitions. Last week, California-based Firestone Walker agreed to combine its U.S. operations with Belgian brewery Duvel Moortgat, which already owns Brewery Ommegang in New York and Boulevard Brewing Co. in Missouri.
Even Anheuser-Busch has been buying craft breweries. The beer giant purchased Seattle-based Elysian Brewing Co. in January, following earlier acquisitions like Goose Island and organic brewer Green Valley Brewing Co.
And while Budweiser’s ads mock the pretentiousness of craft beer, the brand is making efforts to target the craft beer demographic: young drinkers who value flavor. In the Bud & Burgers campaign, celebrity chef David Chang led a contest to find the best Budweiser and burger pairings across the country. The campaign was promoted at food and music festivals as well as on social platforms – seeking to compete with craft beer on its home turf.