Budweiser Is Using the Big Game—and Helen Mirren—to Combat Drunk Driving

Brand will donate $1 million to safe-ride programs

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For the first time in over a decade, Budweiser will tackle drunken driving during the Super Bowl. The Anheuser-Busch brand, which has two spots in the Big Game, will use its 60-second slot to talk about the problem and is tapping actress Helen Mirren to do it. 

The ad, "Simply Put," from Anomaly in New York, eschews the typical PSA format, instead using Mirren's humor and charm to goad people into paying attention to the message.

"We want this spot to really cut through and create conversation about drunken driving," said Brian Perkins, vp of marketing, Budweiser North America. "To do that, our hypothesis was that we had to break some rules and conventions for how this is normally addressed. So there's no roads, no vehicles, no smashed-to-pieces glass on the ground. … The selection of Helen Mirren fits that strategy." 

See the full spot here: 

Budweiser has also partnered with Twitter to create a branded emoji, #GiveADamn, and will donate $1 dollar to safe ride programs (up to $1 million) in 2016 every time the hashtag is used as part of its anti-drunken driving efforts.

It's not the first time Budweiser has addressed the issue during a Super Bowl—the last time was in 2005—but it has never done so as directly as it's doing with this effort, according to Perkins.

"To me, whether or not we have in the past, it feels disruptive and new to use a stage as big as the Super Bowl and a media unit as expensive as the Super Bowl to actually not really talk about us but instead to talk about this social problem," said Perkins. "It's a bold move." 

As part of the initiative, Budweiser created a mobile site, StandWithBud.com, which works as a resource to show consumers all the ways they can get home safely. Budweiser also partnered with Uber and Lyft, offering discount codes for rides home after the Big Game. The site encourages consumers to sign a pledge, too, saying they won't drink and drive. 

The brand has another spot, the 30-second "Not Backing Down," in which its famed Clydesdales will return. The ad builds on the messaging from last year's "Brewed the Hard Way" spot showing how much work goes into Bud's brewing process. Budweiser, which recently revamped its packaging, won't be releasing "Not Backing Down" before it airs during the game on Sunday. 

"The overall message and the overall strategy [with Bud's two Super Bowl spots] is that we wanted to convey care," said Perkins. "Number one, show care in how we brew the beer—which is much more the track of the spot 'Not Backing Down.' The next piece was to convey how much we care about the person who drinks our beer—which is 'Simply Put.' … We're a brand that cares enough to make a cultural leadership statement on the Super Bowl." 

• For more Super Bowl 50 news, check out Adweek's Super Bowl Ad Tracker, an up-to-date list of the brands running Super Bowl spots and the agencies involved in creating them.

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