Sarah McLachlan’s ruminative tunes don’t immediately sound like the most obvious backdrop for a beer commercial. On Super Bowl Sunday, however, one of her songs will serve as exactly that.
McLachlan’s sad, emotional 1997 song “Angel” will work as a call to attention during a humorous ad for Busch Light, and is part of a bid by brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev to develop a new consumer base for the longtime suds staple. “This is sort of stepping out of my comfort zone a little,” the singer and songwriter tells Variety.
In a different era, Busch Light may have seemed expressly targeted to older male aficionados of the outdoors. Now it’s being promoted to a younger crowd that still likes to commune with nature. “We have seen a shift to a younger demographic over the past two to three years,” says Krystyn Stowe, the Anheuser-Busch InBev executive who oversees marketing for its Busch line. In the not-too-distant past, she notes, Busch Light attracted “a little bit more of a seasoned demographic.”
In the spot, a “Busch guy” offers tips on how to survive in the wilderness, telling viewers to seek out food, drink and shelter. McLachlan suddenly emerges from a tent alongside a wolf, while “Angel” plays. She urges viewers to “help helpless animals find shelter,” a nod to the song’s longtime use as a call to action to people who saw an ad in the 2000s advocating against animal cruelty for the British Columbia Society to Prevent Animal Cruelty. The Busch guy moves quickly to end the confusion.
The song, which describes being “in the arms of the angel / May you find some comfort there,” has brought McLachlan outsize attention. Fans have told her that they used it to ease a parent’s passing, or played it during a difficult medical treatment. “I have heard countless stories, heartfelt stories, from people who are quite attached to the song,” she says, and feels it may resonate more than even popular tunes of hers like “Building A Mystery.”
“I’ll never forget being in a Target at 2 a.m. on tour and two older ladies asked me, ‘Aren’t you that girl on the SPAC commercial?’” she recalls. “It has been one of those things that has persevered for years.”
Anheuser-Busch is tapping into a different kind of celebrity as it puts Busch Light on a bigger stage. Last year, the company enlisted Kenny G in a commercial that played in 41 different markets but did not appear in national commercial inventory during the Super Bowl. Some advertisers use the strategy to reach the big crowds expected to watch the Super Bowl without having to pay the mammoth prices required to do so for national reach.
For Anheuser-Busch InBev, of course, that point is sort of moot. The brewer is one of the biggest buyers of Super Bowl ad time and regularly uses the football spectacular to promote Michelob and Bud Light among other beverages. Fox has been seeking between $6 million and $7 million for 30 seconds of ad time in its broadcast of the Big Game.
Busch is making its first appearance on the national stage since 2017, says Stowe, and with good reason. Executives say last year’s ad with Kenny G helped kick off an uptick in Busch Light’s share of overall beer drinkers in 48 states and expect a national ad to reach a greater preponderance of consumers who might be interested in the brew.
For the joke to work without a hitch, says Stowe, McLachlan’s presence was required. “There’s really only one celebrity that can really hit that home.” she says. The ad gives McLachlan a chance to stoke chatter among fans while she works on a new album that she says is “moving slowly” as she juggles other responsibilities, including raising a 15-year-old daughter.
Busch Light isn’t relying solely on a TV commercial to help it gain national attention. The brand is launching a sweepstakes that lets fans enter to win what it says is “a mountain’s worth of Busch Light” between January 31 and the end of the Super Bowl by replying to social posts from its Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.
Expect more from Busch Light over the course of 2023. Ads to come will reveal the Busch Guy’s full “Busch Guide,” with lessons that offer help when facing a black bear or when trying to avoid poison ivy. In the meantime, Busch fans may find they have “Angel” stuck in their heads much like many other people do.
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