Shut out of the Super Bowl for more than three decades, Chicago-based Molson Coors is back in the Big Game, partnering with DraftKings on a whimsical $500,000 beer commercial contest.
Fans who correctly guess the most “prop bets,” such as how many guys with facial hair will appear in the Molson Coors commercial during the first half of Sunday’s game, will win a share of the prize money. The company behind Coors Light and Miller Lite may have already won, just by being there.
Molson Coors and other brewing giants were able to buy ads in the Super Bowl because Anheuser-Busch InBev gave up its exclusive rights as a game sponsor after 33 years. Industry analysts are already calling this year’s broadcast the Beer Bowl, with Heineken, Molson Coors, Sam Adams and Anheuser-Busch all scheduled to run ads in a wide-open commercial field.
“It took less than a minute for us to decide to buy an ad once we heard that exclusivity was no longer,” said Sofia Colucci, vice president of marketing for Miller brands at Molson Coors. “We’ve been waiting for over 30 years for this moment, and we finally have the keys to the big stage.”
Super Bowl LVII between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs will be broadcast on Fox beginning Sunday at 5:30 p.m., and commercials for the game sold out at a record price — upward of $7 million per 30-second spot.
The Big Game remains the pinnacle of TV advertising in a fragmented media world. Last year, Super Bowl LVI on NBC generated more than $578 million in advertising, with the average 30-second commercial selling for $6.5 million, according to research firm Kantar.
The Los Angeles Rams’ 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals drew an average audience of more than 112 million viewers last year, the best Super Bowl ratings in five years.
Advertisers are not only paying a premium for that enormous real-time audience, but also seeking to create a commercial that wins the post-game scoreboards and gets people talking on Monday.
Other Chicago advertisers in this year’s game include WeatherTech, a formerly obscure Bolingbrook vehicle floor mat manufacturer, which has made a national name for itself by buying ads in 10 consecutive Super Bowls.
The last time Molson Coors appeared in the Big Game, “Da Coach” was prowling the sidelines for the Bears and fans were hearing echoes of the “Super Bowl Shuffle.”
In recent years, Molson Coors has relied on guerrilla marketing campaigns to create some peripheral buzz around the Super Bowl.
Last year, Miller Lite opened its own Super Bowl bar in the metaverse, premiering its ad on the virtual platform during the Big Game. In the 2021 Super Bowl, the company asked fans to type in a ridiculously long URL during the Michelob Ultra commercial, ostensibly burning the one extra calorie in Miller Lite and receiving free beer as well.
When the Super Bowl itself opened up, Molson Coors jumped at the opportunity, borrowing from its recent guerrilla marketing history to create the High Stakes Beer Ad, ostensibly a showdown between its Coors Light and Miller Lite brands.
The partnership with DraftKings is an online contest that allows fans to answer 12 multiple choice questions related to the Super Bowl commercial, covering everything from which beer is mentioned first to the over/under on the number of people with facial hair. As of Tuesday, there were more than 135,000 entries vying for a share of $500,000 in prize money.
“We didn’t want to lose that creative approach and kind of that guerrilla marketing that we’ve done in the past,” Colucci said. “And that’s really the genesis of where this DraftKings partnership came from.”
Tying into DraftKings and sports betting for the Super Bowl could add juice to the Molson Coors campaign, which was created by New York-based ad agency Droga5. The Super Bowl is projected to generate a record $1.06 billion in legal sports wagering this year, according to Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, a California-based research firm.
Sports betting is now legal in 36 states, including Illinois. The Molson Coors contest is a free fantasy game that is open to anyone over 21 across the U.S.
Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management who heads up an annual Super Bowl Advertising Review, said the Molson Coors strategy of a pre-game online betting contest makes sense for its first Big Game ad in more than three decades.
“During the game, it is very hard to break through the clutter,” Calkins said. “But ahead of time, if you’ve got something interesting, you can generate a lot of interest before the game even starts.”
Molson Coors could use a Big Game boost. Beer sales nationally fell 3.5% last year, the largest decline in more than half a century, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights, an industry trade publication.
Anheuser-Busch InBev held down the top two spots with Bud Light and Michelob Ultra, which saw a 10.9% sales growth last year, according to an annual ranking by Beer Marketer’s Insight. The top Molson Coors brand, Coors Light, dropped from second to third, while Miller Lite fell to fifth behind Modelo Especial, which was up 7.1%.
“Most of the biggest traditional brands in the industry haven’t grown in years,” said Benj Steinman, president of Beer Marketer’s Insights.
Molson Coors began promoting the High Stakes contest with paid commercials during the NFC and AFC championship games. Fans can play using the DraftKings app or on its website. Points will be awarded for correctly answering questions such as guessing the total number of beers in the ad, what type of dog is pictured behind the bar and what the bartender is wearing.
Winners are expected to be announced Monday morning.
The Molson Coors contest will close to entries before the Super Bowl kickoff Sunday. When the commercial airs, it will be the first time fans see it, breaking another trend of previewing spots online days or even weeks before the actual game broadcast.
“I think what’s really unique about this is that in the Super Bowl nowadays, most consumers have already seen pretty much every ad ahead of time,” said Colucci of Molson Coors. “What’s really cool is that people will be waiting in anticipation to see what the outcome is because there’s $500,000 at stake, and that’s driving a lot of excitement.”
In the end, only a fraction of the 100 million-plus Super Bowl viewers will likely have any skin in the Molson Coors game.
Colucci said the ad will stand on its own.
“We have 30 seconds after 30 years,” she said. “The ad itself is still designed to be really enjoyable for someone who either made their picks or who didn’t.”