Budweiser, King of the Super Bowl

How three little frogs secured the crown

By now we’re all well aware that there are 2 reasons to watch the Super Bowl: the game and the commercials. Super Bowl commercials are not like regular commercials that try to convince you of a product in a seemingly creative manner. Super Bowl commercials are narratives of epic proportion cleverly crafted to showcase a brand as a superhero. These commercials are grandiose leaving us awestruck, entertained, inspired, intrigued and wanting to watch again and again. At the top of the epic Super Bowl commercial list is none other than Budweiser, the beer brand that is as American as football itself.

Budweiser, long established as the King of Beers for the 30+ crowd, had found success in commerical campaigns resulting in more sales for the age demographic they were already popular with. Where they hadn’t found success was with the new beer drinkers, the 21 to 30 year olds. This situation was crystal clear in 1994 as their main competitor, Miller Brewing Company, was quickly gaining market share with the new generation of beer enthusiasts.

Moving away from the Clydesdales

Budweiser knew that the Clydesdale advertisements weren’t resonating with the younger audience they desperately needed to attract, and if they didn’t build a campaign that could capture their attention they would lose an entire generation to Miller.

Mike Brooks, the new Brand Director, had the near impossible job of finding a new campaign that would captivate a new generation of Bud drinkers, but not alienate their current customers.

When the D’Arcy advertising executives, Jim Palumbo and Mark Choate, pitched the “Frogs” concept to Brooks he couldn’t help but burst out laughing. The entire ad was 3 frogs sitting in a swamp somewhere in the Southern United States sounding off “bud” “wei” “ser.”

Simple? Yes. Silly? Yes. Effective? Yes!

The real pitch

Mike Brooks, however, didn’t have the final say. The first time he played the sketch for August Busch III and several other top executives he didn’t get one laugh. Convinced of the effectiveness of this campaign he had to lay his job on the line in order to get approval.

He didn’t stop there though. He convinced August Busch III to debut it in the 1A Super Bowl commercial slot; a $1.2 million ad buy on top of the $2.3 million to produce the ad itself.

Those were some expensive frogs.

The risk and reward

At this point in 1995, American beer was ranked as follows:

#1 Budweiser
#2 Miller Lite,
#3 Bud Light.

Budweiser’s intent was to increase visibility with 21 to 30 year olds in order to increase sales. Increasing Budweiser sales would solidify the #1 spot, and increasing Bud Light sales would push Miller Lite down in the ranks. However, running a bad commercial ran the risk of Miller or another competitor taking that #1 spot.

The payoff

Luckily for Mike Brooks, his instinct was right. The ads were a huge hit. So big in fact that Budweiser salesmen would walk into sales calls with a VCR in tow and play the commercials.

Ad Track rated the commercial #1 for 3 months, which means Budweiser took on a new #1 spot. “Frogs” tripled awareness for 21 to 30 year olds inadvertently leading to more sales and shortly after airing the debut of the “Frogs” commercial, Bud Light overtook Miller Lite in sales giving Budweiser the #1 and #2 selling beers in the world.

Budweiser went on to make other superstar commercials starring everything from the classic Clydesdale to Bud drinkers greeting each other with a “Wassup” to a house made out of all Bud Light packaging. The only thing left to ponder is what Budweiser and Super Bowl 2014 has in store for us.

Here’s a look back at a few of our other favorites:

The unforgettable 'Wassup' Campaign from 2000'

'Paper or Plastic'

The Premier "Bud Bowl" Commericial

Budweiser Super Bowl XXXIX ad feat. Cedric the Entertainer - Designated Driver

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