Bud Light Seltzer is hoping that a Super Bowl ad starring celebrity chef Guy Fieri will help jump-start sales in an increasingly crowded drinks category.
The commercial, which the brand says will mark Fieri’s first-ever Super Bowl ad appearance, plays off of the Food Network host’s well-known catchphrase: “Welcome to Flavortown.”
It’s a good match with Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda, according to Anheuser-Busch InBev, because it doesn’t contain sugar or caffeine but does have “the loudest flavors ever.” The commercial shows partygoers reaching into a fridge that takes them to the “Land of Loud Flavors,” where Fieri is the mayor.
“These are big launches, so to be able to have the platform of the Super Bowl with a product like that and Guy Fieri … is really special for us,” said Andy Goeler, vice president of marketing for Bud Light. “This is the 40th year in the Super Bowl for Bud Light.”
Companies often use Super Bowl ad space to spotlight new products. Although National Football League viewership declined last year, advertisers are hard-pressed to find other events with such large audiences.
And the timing seems right for Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda, which launched its variety pack of citrus, orange, cola and cherry cola flavors in January. It’s the latest iteration under the Bud Light Seltzer brand, which debuted about two years ago.
NBC is charging as much as $6.5 million for 30-second ad spots for this year’s NFL championship game, which takes place on Feb. 13.
For Bud Light Seltzer, the high price tag could be worth it. After several years of skyrocketing growth, the pace of hard seltzer sales gains has slowed, dealing a blow to some companies.
Truly owner Boston Beer, for example, saw its stock value cut in half over the past 12 months as the company’s rosy projections for hard seltzer sales never came to fruition. Euromonitor International estimates that the U.S. hard seltzer sales category increased just 35.1% in 2021 after being up 64.1% in 2020 and 126.5% in 2019.
As growth lags, competition has ramped up, putting seltzer brands in a fierce battle for market share. J.P. Morgan estimates that Bud Light Seltzer’s share of the hard seltzer market is deteriorating, falling by 4.1% to 8.2% in the four weeks ended Dec. 4 compared with the year-earlier period.
MKM Partners analyst Bill Kirk wrote in a note to clients that he predicts Bud Light Seltzer and Constellation Brands‘ Corona Seltzer will get pulled from the market in 2022.
Despite its shrinking share, Bud Light Seltzer is the No. 3 seltzer in the market, trailing just White Claw and Truly. AB InBev’s other hard seltzer brands, Bon V!v and Natural Light Seltzer, have a much smaller share of the market.
“We’re investing in a Super Bowl ad for a brand new product, so it’s a big commitment,” Goeler said. “We believe in it, and we’re going to keep investing in it and building it into a significant part of our portfolio.”
Bud Light’s parent company is planning to run Super Bowl ads for its other brands as well. Bud Light Next, the company’s new zero-carb beer, will make its debut after launching recently. And longtime Super Bowl staple Budweiser will return after sitting out last year’s game. Cutwater Spirits and Michelob Ultra will also air Super Bowl ads.
Shares of AB InBev are roughly flat over the last 12 months, giving it a market value of $109 billion.
Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.