Most years, Budweiser’s Super Bowl ads are cute or elaborate or touching. Lots of stuff with Clydesdales or frogs or puppies.
(Last year they went all-in on Bud Light. I’m not sure anyone liked it.)
This year, they’re doing something else–something that reportedly cost them more than any Super Bowl commercial they’ve ever done. They’re going 100 percent political, with an ad that highlights the immigration story of its co-founder, Adolphus Busch.
Timely, right? Even more interesting given that they had to have filmed it months ago.
“Of course, it would be foolish to think the current context is not putting additional eyeballs (on the ad), but that was absolutely not the intent and not what makes the spot as special as it is,” said Ricardo Marques, VP of Budweiser.
Below: the commercial. Then perhaps my favorite part–seven cool things you won’t learn about Adolphus Busch by watching it.
It opens in the 1850s. Adolphus Busch travels alone on a ship from Europe to the United States. It doesn’t look fun.
A wave throws him from his bunk, which gives him the chance to tell another passenger that he’s en route to America because he hopes to brew beer. Landing in the U.S., he’s greeted by xenophobes who shout: “You’re not wanted here! Go back home!”
He shares a highly improbably moment with an African American fellow traveler on a steamboat. (Much as we hate to recall this, Missouri was a slave state in the 1850s; it’s unlikely a white immigrant like Busch would have been hanging out politely on deck with a black passenger.)
There’s a fire and some other drama, but ultimately he makes it to St. Louis. He sketches a prototype of a 20th-century beer bottle in a notebook, and meets his future business partner (and father-in-law), Eberhard Anheuser.
The real Busch
Things you won’t learn from the commercial. (If you want to blow your mind, check out Busch’s 1913 obituary in The New York Times):
- Busch was the 21st of 22 children. (Twenty-first of 22!) He actually came to America with three of his older brothers, not alone as the commercial suggests.
- He served for 14 months in the Union Army during the Civil War. Toward the end of his military service, he learned that his father had died in Germany–and he had inherited a small fortune.
- The Anheuser-Busch company became the juggernaut you know today because it figured out two things that were groundbreaking 100 years ago: bottling beer and refrigerated transportation.
- The 50th anniversary of Busch’s marriage to the former Lilly Anheuser was “unprecedented for its elaboratness,” according to The New York Times, including $500,000 worth of gifts (about $12.2 million today).
- Bush was worth $60 million at his death, which would be about $1.5 billion today. He was a major philanthropist who donated large sums to San Francisco after its 1906 earthquake, and to Germany and Harvard University.
- When he died in 1913, more than 100,000 people turned out for his funeral and memorial.
- Anheuser-Busch is now owned by a Belgian company, InBev. No word on whether its current CEO would like to immigrate to the United States.
In other words, Busch was an American immigrant success story. I think we can all drink to that.