Memorable Super Bowl ad rankles the corn lobby.

By Tim Nelson
February 04, 2019
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Unless you are a fan of the New England Patriots, you’ll probably forget that Super Bowl LIII even happened by the end of this week. But even though the game was defined by a distinct lack of offense, there are certain corn growers and other parties who took offense to the content of Bud Light’s advertising.

In case you missed the big game, the central pitch of Bud Light’s ad campaign this year was that they brew their beer without using corn syrup. It’s part of a recent push on AB Inbev’s part towards more transparency about what exactly goes into their water flagship light beer, coming on the heels of their recent decision to include nutrition facts on Bud Light packaging.

Somehow they were able to legally mention that Miller Lite and Coors Light, both sides of the MillerCoors equation, both use corn syrup in order to brew their beer. I guess if you can’t differentiate from your competitors on taste, you might as well try to accuse them of using an ingredient that scares people.

Watching the Bud Knight and the royal court he serves embark on a hero’s journey to deliver a misdirected shipment of corn syrup was admittedly one of the game’s better ads, but the National Corn Grower’s Association took umbrage with its content. As they see it, the fact that Bud Light skips out on corn syrup just means that the country’s corn growers are missing out on a potential client.

In addition to America’s corn growers, other beer brands felt the need to chime in. Heineken (a foreign beer company that did not shoot an ad featuring Jeffrey Lebowski), Tweeted that they too do not use corn syrup in their beer. MillerCoors, the subject of the corn syrup scorn, pointed out that their beers feature fewer calories and carbs than Bud Light.

But perhaps the most poignant defense of MillerCoors’ macrobrewing process came from PJ Marino, the company’s chief compliance officer. He pointed out that while Bud Light may not use any corn syrup, AB InBev sells other beers that use high fructose corn syrup.

At the end of the day, it’s too early to tell if consumers who reach for 18 or 30 Bud or Coors Lights really care all that much about what goes into their beer. If market research shows that they do, you can be sure that this is only the opening shot in an ongoing ingredient war. What’s really worth thinking about is how Bud Light managed to show an ad for light beer that also doubled as a reminder that Game of Thrones is coming back.  

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