Where’s Your Crown, King Nothing?

We’ve grown up knowing the Big 3 of beers. Hailing from different parts of the mid-west and west, each staked a claim as THE staple American beer. One went as far as to crown itself King and Champion of All It Surveys and Supplies With Beer. Right.

But the King has fallen on hard times. Reports indicate that 2010 sales will drop 9% from 2009, which was also a losing year, with the biggest demographic to stray being the under-30 drinkers. Couple this with across-the-board pricing increases….well, the math sucks for Anheuser-Busch (sorry, AB-INBEV). So, starting today, AB’s latest marketing campaign is centered around grabbing friends and hitting your favorite watering hole for free Budweiser.

That’s right, they’re giving it away. (Yes, I’m fully aware that ALL companies in ALL corners of he open market have freebie events. Its smart business. But the announcement of “We’re losing market share” was a comma away from “Come to for FREE Buds!” makes AB look worried. To a degree, this stinks of desperation.)

The stranglehold AB had on the American beer market has not been chipped away slowly, it’s been assaulted by microbrews, craft brews, and, quite frankly, better tasting beers. The “Grab Some Buds” campaign is trying to establish Bud as the cool beer for the u-30’s. Well, let’s let AB president Dave Peacock explain the intent:

“We’re not looking for miraculous changes,” Peacock said. “We want to begin the process of stabilizing the brand.”

AB needs to stabilize the Budweiser brand. That, is sad. The NFL and NASCAR sponsorships, the fact that AB products are sold in EVERY SPORTING VENUE IN THE US….and the brand isn’t stable? Wow.

So, I write his from Union Pub, one of the more popular Capitol Hill bars. (Yes, I have a free Budweiser. Let me make this clear: free beer is still awesome. And it comes with a free bottle coozy.) Everyone on Team Bud seems pumped. The Bud Girls at the door are hot, barely dressed, and informing me that the first Bud is free and subsequent Buds are $2. Ok, not bad. Also, if I do buy a Bud, I get a free t-shirt. Maybe. There are a few male reps wandering around taking pictures of people enjoying their beers, trying to coax the bet responses out of people.

The camera crew (supplied by AB) just came out to the patio. After interviewing the most media-friendly bartender they come to record old people drinking Bud. The vast majority here are 35+. Wasn’t the point to attract drinkers under 30? Its entirely possible that I’m here too early (event is scheduled 4-7, current time is 5:43 EST). [UPDATE: my waitress tells me the Senate staffers and interns will hit the door after 6.]

Learned something else, this night isn’t special to the National Happy Hour. Wednesday nights at Union Pub is normally $2 Buds and discounted buckets of Bud. Hey, if its known you have a regular promotion, go with it.

UPDATE 6:04pm: The pizza is piping hot and really good. Italian Stallion plus onions. Next to my pie is a Goose Island Golden Wheat. Excellent brew out of Chicago.

UPDATE 6:21pm: About time people who should be carded show up (UP’s doorman cards EVERYONE. Saw him stop a 70yo guy one day. Cool dude, too.)

UPDATE 6:51pm: I just live-blogged this. Someone schedule an intervention.

I’m about to head home, unimpressed. Union Pub is great, but Anheuser-Busch put on a uninspiring dog-and-pony show. TPG will never tell anyone to not drink a beer just because any of us don’t like X-reason about X-brewer. I will say that AB does not constitute me any significant part of my beer consumption. Their Bud Light Golden Wheat, as surprising as it was, felt like “too little, too late.” When I grab a beer, I want flavor. Bud products don’t cut it.

Sadly, this night’s event was poorly timed, or at least poorly marketed. This might as well have been a regular bucket-o-Buds Wednesday. Any media metion of the NHH was rife with the brewer’s “we’re getting out asses pounded in the market so we’re going to give our beer away” statements. It’s as if AB wanted the world to know why this was happening, make themselves the underdog against these nefarious “craft” beers. Loss of market share has driven AB into desperation, and that’s why “The King” is losing it’s crown.

Additional photos from National Happy Hour


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