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Budweiser’s Infuriating “Alberta Made” Ad

Over the weekend I was watching a CBC program online and noticed an odd ad kept playing at the commercial breaks. It was an ad for Budweiser. The first time I saw it, I was perplexed. The more I watched it (CBC has the annoying habit of playing the same ads during each online break) the angrier I got.

The ad features close ups of a Budweiser label. It zooms in on portions of the label that say, in turn, “Edmonton”, “Calgary”, “Lethbridge”, “Red Deer”. The camera then pulls out to show the whole can, with the words “Alberta Made” comprising more than half the label. Beside the can are the words “Proudly Brewed Here Since 1980”.

The voice-over is simple. Here is the entire script: “This is the famous Budweiser beer. Made with the same passion that build this province. Alberta made. Proudly brewed here since 1980.”

I have been unable to find the ad through google searches, so my guess is that it is designed for online streaming to targeted audiences (i.e., Albertans). I was able to grab a couple screen captures, however (which are the photos attached to this post).

What to make of this odd ad? Lots.

First, it is hit you over the head with a mallet clear that they are trying to position Budweiser – a distinctly American beer – as Albertan. Not only made here, but associated with the mettle that is Alberta’s mythology. It takes a significant amount of gall to try to portray “America’s Beer” as Albertan. To drive that point home, on my shelf I have a special can design released during the last U.S. election that is an apex of American nationalism: a large, stylized “America” dominates the label with various catch phrases scattered about, including “land of the free” and “liberty & justice for all”.

If the ad stopped at incredulously wrapping itself in the Alberta flag that would be infuriating enough. But it is determined to push the boundaries of  honesty even further.

It is true Budweiser has been brewed in Alberta since 1980, when Labatt (then still an independent corporation) contracted to produce Budweiser in Canada, starting with Alberta and Saskatchewan. These kinds of arrangements marked the 1980s as U.S. beer weaseled its way into the Canadian market. The first Canadian-made Budweisers were brewed in Labatt’s Edmonton plant.

The ad, though, also flashes through Calgary, Lethbridge and Red Deer on the label. All cities with brewing heritage for sure. However, Labatt has never operated a brewery in any of those cities. Adding the other cities creates the impression it was/is brewed in those cities as well. In my books that is darned close to lying. One might say they are just highlighting other major Alberta cities, but if so, why not Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie or Banff or Jasper? Why pick cities that have brewery history of some note if not attempting to insinuate yourself in that history?

Plus, while it is true Bud has been brewed in Alberta since 1980, that basic fact does not make it an Alberta beer. The ad glosses over the uncomfortable fact Budweiser remains an American-branded beer owned by the largest beer corporation in the world.

My current theory is that this ad is in advance of the launch of a new, Alberta-specific labeling for the product. If so, that means their push to be seen as local goes beyond a niche online ad for quirky CBC watchers and is aimed squarely at the mainstream of beer consumers. And that is a direct shot across the bow at Alberta’s burgeoning craft beer scene.

In one way AB-Inbev’s need to position its flagship as local speaks to their concerns about the growth in the “Drink Local” sentiment among consumers. They are worried where that movements leads. However, if the small uptick in local beer market share is enough to spark special branding, to what lengths will they go if the craft beer industry starts to gobble up significant market share?

I know I shouldn’t be surprised that the big corporate breweries are prepared to mislead consumers to protect their market share. This is standard fare for their marketing departments. It is just VERY  interesting they are feeling the need to target a specific provincial market in this fashion.

As usual, buyer beware.

8 comments to Budweiser’s Infuriating “Alberta Made” Ad

  • Ugh. Labatt has a giant sign up on their factory with the Budweiser label with ALBERTA MADE on it. Technically true but so, so wrong.
    Sadly, they got to Corb Lund. He’s made an ad wearing the Budweiser AlbertaMade slogan, allying all things Alberta with Bud. Say it ain’t so, Corb. YouTube

    • beerguy

      Clearly they are ramping up the campaign. I expect we will see more of it in the coming weeks. Ugh!

      As for Lund, check my site tomorrow on my take on that.

  • E.M.

    I find this intriguing, as I read this on my break in the brewery. I drive by the ALBERTA MADE grain wrap twice a day, I find it pretty cool. You are correct, there are limited edition Alberta Made cans going to market soon, we all got to take some home last month. Enjoy!

    • beerguy

      Thanks for your comment. I totally respect the perspective of the workers at Labatt. It is your livelihood, and it is a good job. Keep on it, brother! I just wish your employer was a bit more honest in their advertising.

  • Trent Moore

    Bought a 24 of bud light with one of the Alberta made Budweiser cans in it

  • Justin

    How is it not honest?

    Is it not brewed in Alberta? Therefore Alberta Made since 1980 (which is older than all other craft breweries in Alberta?

    I think the custom cans is a neat thing and they have a lot of history they can talk about.

  • Watershed

    How many people work at that particular brewery?

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