Budweiser Says Backlash to Its Immigrant Ad Already Seems to Be Tapering Off

Brand doesn't want to be politically divisive

Budweiser shot the ad in New Orleans before the inauguration. Tim Black
Headshot of Kristina Monllos

On Tuesday Budweiser released its 60-second spot for the Super Bowl. The epic showcases co-founder Adolphus Busch’s journey from Hamburg, Germany to St. Louis. In the days following its release the ad has become the subject of much debate—is it a pro-immigrant message? Is it a response to President Trump’s executive order?—and the reason for a social campaign calling for a boycott.

But how is all of the impacting the brand? According to a person familiar with the matter, Budweiser saw “a flare of negative reactions on Monday night and into Tuesday morning (following a Breitbart tweet)” but “as of today, that has tapered and sentiment on social is mostly positive (people saying they like the ad) or neutral (people sharing the ad)—about 73 percent positive as of today.”

“That’s in line with normal trends for Bud on social and much more positive than social trends from Budweiser’s “Brewed the Hard Way” ad in 2015, [which is] now considered a successful campaign that improved [brand] performance,” noted the person.

The ad, which was shot on location in New Orleans in January before the inauguration, has been in the works for months, with Budweiser’s creative agency Anomaly landing on the idea of telling Busch’s story in October after visiting the company’s St. Louis brewery and company archives.

Coverage of the ad has actually improved the brand’s press coverage which has been “more positive than normal [in] monthly averages; as of this morning we have seen 1.2 billion unique weekly impressions, with only 3 percent being very negative.”

The person added: “While Budweiser understands that you cannot reference the American Dream today without becoming part of the larger conversation about immigration that is happening (and surprised many Americans) this week, it was not our intention to make a political piece. We believe that beer should be bipartisan. In fact, Budweiser was a proud hospitality sponsor of both the Republican and Democratic conventions, and the U.S. presidential debates.” 

Prior to the release of “Born the Hard Way,” when Adweek was behind the scenes of the making of the ad, we asked if Budweiser was prepared for a response from President Trump.

At the time Ricardo Marques, Budweiser’s vp in the U.S., explained that, “To be candid with you, I don’t believe this will trigger that sort of conversation, but we’re prepared. That’s one of the things we’ve learned from social media. Conversations can go in different directions and take on their own life and we want to be prepared to answer those and to put this campaign and this spot in the right context of what it was intended for originally.” 

It’s also worth noting that Budweiser almost featured Adolphus Busch in its ads years ago. Scandal star Tony Goldwyn previously told Adweek that he was hired to play Adolphus Busch and shot ads that never aired.

“They were these beautiful, period commercials, in the 1870s or something like that,” said Goldwyn. “We shot them in France, because I guess he pioneered pasteurization of beer, and so it was me in France with Louis Pasteur, and we spent a week there. Then we went to Colorado, because he also was the guy who invented refrigerated rail cars, to transport beer, so we were in Colorado on rail cars.”

Goldwyn added: “We shot this amazing campaign and it was the first time I’d even been paid a significant sum of money as an actor. Then, they never aired! They dumped the whole campaign! And they were gorgeous.”

@KristinaMonllos kristina.monllos@adweek.com Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.