At the Farm GateBud not such a Buddy
Super Bowl ad infuriates Farmers
The Super Bowl beer advertisement brewed belly-aches in my living room full of corn farmers. For a pain-staking 60 seconds, we watched Bud Light knights transport an oversized and unwanted barrel marked “corn syrup” in its medieval-themed advertisement. The knights traveled to the Miller Lite castle and then to the Coors Light castle to present the mistaken delivery to its rightful owner.
Their message: Bud Light doesn’t brew with corn syrup. The ad directly attacked the smaller brands that do all while offending the farmers who grow the grain crop.
Social media exploded with disgruntled farmer football fans. Two weeks later, bartenders in Louisville talked about it during the National Farm Machinery Show. The Commodity Classic national farm event in March served only Coors Light and Miller Lite at a concert. And the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture even mentioned the commercial during his speech at the event. This disparaging commercial struck more nerves than tariff talk.
No doubt, Bud Light beverages would have lubricated the drain of my kitchen sink on that Super Bowl Sunday had anyone held the beer brand in hand. I sighed and thought to myself, “What are you doing, Bud Light?” Here agriculture goes again with a misleading and irreversible fear-based marketing tactic detrimental to our industry. The one-minute skit tossed more fuel on the fear fire, insinuating that corn syrup likened its vilified step-sister, high-fructose corn syrup. Different product. Different sugar. And a topic for a different time.
Supposedly, brewing beer requires sugar for the fermenting process, and corn syrup does the job. Bud Light brews with rice, and that works just fine, too. I commend Bud Light for its recent voluntary commitment to ingredient labels, the root of the story here. However, in the beer maker’s attempt to differentiate its recipe from rivals, it indicated the competitor’s sugar choice as inferior. Interestingly, the parent company uses corn syrup to brew some of its other brands. I guess it depends which label lingo tantalizes your beer-buying habits.
Fear-based marketing has increased over time, changing the way consumers shop and inadvertently the way American farms operate. Green bean cans state non-GMO, while there’s no such thing as a GMO green bean. By federal law, no meat sold can contain traces of antibiotic, regardless of what the label states or does not state. Orange juice contains no gluten and popcorn no genetic modification. Yet, those well-placed labels persuade the uninformed consumer to think positively of an omitted (or never present) ingredient.
During that dreadfully long 60-second commercial, the corn syrup barrel kept re-appearing, costing about a million every time it did. CNBC reports a record-high $5.25 million price-tag per 30-second Super Bowl commercial spot this year. Months from now, the ho-hum game won’t earn a mention. But farmers and their friends likely will think twice at the beer cooler before the next summer barbecue.
About the author: Joanie Stiers, a wife and mother of two farm kids, writes from west-central Illinois, where her family grows corn, soybeans and hay and raises beef cattle.