Budweiser Black Crown making Super Bowl debut

The new high-alcohol brand will take on cocktails and craft beer as Anheuser-Busch tries to cut losses.

By Jason Notte Jan 9, 2013 10:09AM

Budweiser Black Crown (Anheuser-Busch via PR Newswire)In Anheuser-Busch InBev's (BUD) eyes, the answer to flagging beer sales is just a few million Super Bowl ad dollars and some scorching alcohol content away.

Ad Age confirmed Tuesday that the multinational brewer behind Budweiser, Stella Artois, Becks and a host of other brands will use its Super Bowl ad time to promote Budweiser Black Crown, which weighs in at 6% alcohol by volume compared to 5% for Bud.

It's the second year in a row that A-B has used Super Bowl ads -- for which CBS (CBS) is charging between $3.5 million and $4 million per 30-second spot -- to highlight a higher-alcohol brew aimed at steering drinkers away from cocktails, malt beverages and craft beers. Last year, Bud Light Platinum received the high-priced push.

So far, few of A-B's Super Bowl and football-related efforts have scored it new business. Despite paying $1 billion to take the NFL's official beer sponsorship away from MolsonCoors (TAP), throwing $240 million at Super Bowl ads in the last decade and signing alcohol sponsor exclusivity deals with the networks broadcasting the event, the brewer's production slipped 3.2% in 2011. Its market share also fell from 47.7% in 2010 to 46.9% a year later, according to Beer Marketer's Insights.

Just last year, A-B watched its Budweiser brand drop to third place among all beer brands sold in the U.S. as Coors Light took over the No. 2 spot. While Bud's market share dropped from 9.7% in 2009 to 8.4% in 2011, Coors Light's share jumped from 8.3% to 8.7%.

Demand for Bud has decreased between 5% and 9.5% each year for the last three years and Bud has lost more than 60% of its sales since peaking in 1988. That year, Budweiser accounted for more than 25% of all beer sales in the U.S., which is just a little less than the 28.4% share of the market held by all of MolsonCoors' brands combined.

Though no single brewer other than A-B and MolsonCoors controls more than 6% of the U.S. market, A-B seems highly concerned lately with the little guys catching up. A-B announced plans to buy Corona maker Grupo Modelo after Corona's 5% growth in 2011 gave it a 5.7% share of the U.S. market. U.S. Senators didn't like that and now the Department of Justice is investigating the proposed deal to see if it could result in a violation of antitrust law.

Meanwhile, with the Brewers Association reporting that the craft beer segment has grown to 5.7% of the U.S. market by volume and 9.1% in sales, A-B has countered craft beer by buying up Chicago craft brewer Goose Island last year and putting more emphasis on its Shock Top wheat beer brands. A-B aims squarely at the craft beer market when it notes that Black Crown was originally conceived as part of "Project 12," in which brewmasters at 12 AB InBev breweries created their own small-batch "tribute" beers with distinct styles. By suggesting that Black Crown has more "body, color and hop character," it's adopting that subgenre's lingo and hoping it succeeds where previous experiments like Budweiser American Ale have failed.

A-B's small brewer problem is much worse than the craft statistics let on. The Brewers Association's numbers don't include brewers like North American Breweries, which produces Magic Hat and Pyramid brands and saw sales grow 8.6% in 2011 to give it 1.3% of the market. Nor does it include regional brewers like D. G. Yungling & Son, out of Pottsville, Pa., which became the largest American-owned brewery in 2011 after sales jumped 17%.

Yet the beer geeks aren't the audience A-B is trying to woo with Black Crown's increased alcohol content. That would be the domain of the malt beverage drinkers who helped increase sales of Mike's Hard Lemonade by more than 16% in 2011. The higher-potency, higher-priced Black Crown and its A-B cousin Beck's Sapphire want a piece of the party that only brands like Mike's and Smirnoff Ice have been invited to in recent years.

Black Crown is slated to debut on Jan. 21, but time will tell whether or not it can plug A-B's leaky sales.

More on Money Now

Jan 9, 2013 1:03PM

6% isn't exactly "scorching alcohol content"


anyway, there's a lot of better beers out there than Bud

Jan 9, 2013 11:56AM
Who cares, with all the new micro breweries out there and Budweiser not smart enough to adjust what they produce to match the changing tastes of the public this giant will fail as they are still mislead thinking it's the alcohol that people like, not the taste.  What a load of crap.
Jan 9, 2013 3:03PM
Wow..... 6%! Holy crap! Now I can put down my Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA which is at a mere 9% and I might as well not even open my Stone Double Bastard at 11.2%. Seriously, with something like 1500-2000 microbreweries in the U.S. - most of which make good beer - why do people even bother with that BudCrap anymore? The last time that I drank a Budweiser I wasn't even old enough to drink beer. I've been drinking craft beer since I turned 21. Most craft beer actually tastes good (although some craft breweries are still awful) and I support local and small business anyways. There's nothing better than going to my local mom and pop liquor store and buying a product from a microbrewery.
Jan 9, 2013 12:55PM

If you take crappy beer and add more alcohol to it you just get crappy beer with more alcohol.  I thought they tried that with bud ice??  Like Tom Colicchio from Top Chef says "You can't take something unseasoned and something without flavor and turn it into something seasoned."  The sad thing is, people will still buy it because they had a cool commercial.

Jan 9, 2013 11:41AM

Higher alcohol content means you have to drink less crappy beer to get a buzz.

Jan 9, 2013 1:51PM
If only they knew how to boost the flavor content.
Jan 9, 2013 1:19PM
Uh MSN, it's D. G. Yuengling & Son.
Jan 9, 2013 12:37PM
I can just see the ad.  Black Crown, proudly helping you hit the legal limit quicker.
Jan 9, 2013 12:23PM
The Church Lady must be here, lots of thumbs down, no sense of humor.
Jan 9, 2013 4:35PM

Take a lump of crap and put it in a pretty box, wrap it in silver paper then top it with a golden bow.  When you give that box to another person, do you know what's going to be inside that box when they open it?  That's right, a piece of crap.


Maybe its time Anheuser-Bush should devote some time, money and brainpower into improving the items they already produce instead of flooding a market they have already saturated with their poorly brewed swill with another sub-par, tasteless, concoction they laughingly call beer.

Jan 9, 2013 2:29PM
Budweiser is not beer, so I wasn't expecting beer when I saw the high power bud link on the home page.
Jan 9, 2013 4:11PM
Budweiser - cure for constipation.
AB makes terrible beer.  If they gave it to me for free I'd pour it down the toilet..  Just terrible.

Jan 9, 2013 4:55PM
Being a huge micro fan I was pleasantly surprised to like all the beers in the Project 12 series. They chose the amber beer as the winner to dawn the "black crown". I'll tell you guys, it's not a bad beer at all. Yeah, I'd rather have a Gordon Biersch but IMO this new one beats the pants off of that thing they called an Americ****.

 I'm really anxious to see the advertising for this one. Wonder what direction they'll go in?
Jan 9, 2013 1:30PM
Who cares ???  It is all just very overpriced WATER anyway !!!
Jan 10, 2013 1:12AM
After being a professional brewer at two of the "craft" breweries discussed in this article, I can say that I hope that no more craft breweries are bought up by bigger companies.  Your best bet is to know the guys that made your beer.
Jan 9, 2013 3:50PM
I did try their failed Americ**** and it was fair. Can't stand the rest of their stuff. This new product smells like failure too.
Jan 9, 2013 5:22PM
Did you know that if you talk about one of the products mentioned in this article, they censor it? It's the Budweiser Americ****.  Seems to have letters that also refer to a certain bodily orifice. PC dopes
Jan 9, 2013 5:20PM
There are far too many new brews from micro breweries out now that put "****r" to shame.  AB is history, much like the American dream and congressional progress.
Jan 9, 2013 6:23PM

For all those writing in that they love the craft brew...Excellent!  And it will continue.  I work for one of the suppliers of brewery equipment, our phones have been ringing off the hook and show no signs of slowing down! We have sold equipment to the likes of Red Hook, Stone and breweries around the globe.  Even India is getting into the act. Glad I'm not holding Budweiser stock!


Support your local breweries!!

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