Anheuser-Busch InBev spent big on Super Bowl ads this year, shelling out for 6 minutes worth of ad time at an average price tag of $5.2 million per 30 seconds. It used the time to advertise its beer brands including Budweiser, Stella Artois, and Michelob Ultra. But it was the two Bud Light ads about corn syrup that got the most attention.
Bud Light’s commercials mocked Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup in their beer, which Bud Light does not use. The ads were a big hit with fans; many news sites included Bud Light among this year’s best Super Bowl ads.
The ads were not such a hit with competitors and corn farmers.
The National Corn Growers Association tweeted: “America’s corn farmers are disappointed in you... Thanks Miller Light and Coors Lite for supporting our industry.” Kevin Ross, first vice president of the NCGA, told Yahoo Finance the ad “implied that [corn syrup] was an inferior product and that the other beers were doing something wrong because they use corn syrup in the brewing process,” and called it an “attack.” Miller Lite took out a full-page ad in the New York Times on Wednesday saying, in part, “The ‘corn syrup’ we source from America’s heartland helps make Miller Lite taste so great... It’s unfortunate that our competitor’s Big Game ad created an unnecessary #corntroversy.” Coors Light tweeted on Wednesday, “Yes, we use corn syrup. It’s consumed by yeast during fermentation & never ends up in the beer you drink. That’s just beer making.” And critics pointed out that other AB-InBev beers do brew with corn syrup, including Busch and Natural Light.
Now Bud Light is publicly backtracking.
A message from the King re: Corn Syrup. pic.twitter.com/IukZ0JZPZ3— Bud Light (@budlight) February 6, 2019
In a tweet on Wednesday afternoon presented as a note from the King character from the ad, Bud Light said, “Yeesh! That escalated quickly... In the Bud Light Kingdom we love corn too! Corn on the cob, corn bread, popcorn—we just don’t brew with the syrup (what you also call ‘dextrose’).”
A press email from a Bud Light spokesperson on Wednesday night was even more explicit. “To be clear, we are not saying corn syrup is bad, we just don’t use it in Bud Light,” the email said. “It’s a less expensive ingredient and we think a quality light lager only should include the best ingredients.”
To be sure, fans of the ad may see a contradiction in Bud Light now claiming, “We are not saying corn syrup is bad” after running two ads mocking the use of corn syrup. Others may see the reversal as an unnecessary step.
But clearly, the noise got loud enough that Bud Light felt compelled to do some damage control.
Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.