Michelob Ultra’s ‘Superior Bowl’ ad promotes gender equality in sports

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Michelob Ultra will run three ads during the Super Bowl to showcase its core light beer, Pure Gold organic lager and hard seltzer offering, according to a news release. Each commercial is set in “Superior Bowl,” a vintage bowling alley that attracts a raft of celebrities and is staffed by actor Steve Buscemi.
  • The 60-second “Superior Bowl” spot depicts athletes Peyton Manning, Alex Morgan, Jimmy Butler, Nneka Ogwumike and Brooks Koepka engaged in spirited competition, only to have their bowling session interrupted by a dramatic entrance from Serena Williams. A second commercial, “Caddy,” focuses on golfer Koepka and Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer. The final chapter, “Golden,” will air in select markets and shows musician Becky G. choosing Michelob Ultra Pure Gold.
  • Michelob Ultra is emphasizing an even gender split of athlete ambassadors, a move in line with its recent $100 million pledge to increase the visibility of women in sports. Additionally, the Anheuser-Busch brand has signed a five-year contract with the Women’s Sports Foundation to assist female athletes vying to participate in elite competitions, adding a cause marketing component to the star-studded campaign.

Dive Insight:

Michelob Ultra is enacting an aggressive advertising push around Super Bowl LVI, reflecting how the better-for-you brand’s star has risen in Anheuser-Busch’s portfolio. The label is the fastest-growing beer brand in the U.S. by share, the marketer said, as well as the No. 2 beer based on volume sales.

The brewing giant, a longtime NFL sponsor, is running four minutes of national ads for various brands on Sunday after taking a more muted approach to 2021’s big game, when its flagship brand Budweiser sat out of the event for the first time in 37 years to instead focus on promoting COVID-19 vaccines. A decent chunk of airtime this year will be dedicated to showcasing offerings under the Michelob Ultra banner, including a hard seltzer that hit the market in early 2021 and is vying against more established category players like Mark Anthony Brand’s White Claw.

The latest Michelob Ultra ads, developed with agency Wieden + Kennedy New York and directed by Rachel Morrison, use an evocative fictional venue as touching-off point for different vignettes. The 30-second “Caddy” draws out Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer’s health angle, with a repeated emphasis on zero sugar and zero carbs.

“Golden,” which is a regional buy airing in markets like Houston, Dallas and Miami, plays on the premium qualities of Michelob’s organic lager. Michelob Ultra Pure Gold made its big game debut in 2019 with an ASMR-style ad starring Zoe Kravitz.

An ambitious media play is complemented by a diverse cast of celebrities ranging from tennis legend Williams to Hollywood icon Buscemi. The latter’s presence could summon associations with “The Big Lebowski,” where Buscemi played a bowling partner to Jeff Bridges’ lead. Several other Super Bowl campaigns are leaning on nostalgia for older media, with references to movies like “Austin Powers” and hit songs like Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It.”

Beyond the star wattage factor, Michelob Ultra is using the closely-watched media stage to promote its efforts around gender equality in sports. The main commercial, “Superior Bowl,” closes on a note of awe for Williams, who will also appear as part of a live broadcast integration on game day. She will sport a Superior Bowl-themed bomber jacket from a Spare Clothes Collection that Michelob Ultra is releasing on Feb. 13.

Additional media elements include a get-home-safe ad starring Manning that will air on digital and social platforms. Anheuser-Busch is also pushing spots for Budweiser, Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda, new zero-carb beer Bud Light Next and Cutwater Spirits, which is making its first national Super Bowl appearance.

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