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The Iconic Budweiser Clydesdales

The Budweiser Clydesdales have earned a special place in American popular culture and history and have become the most popular and loved symbol of the brand’s persona globally.

Clydesdale horses are the most recognisable equine breed in the world owing to their majestic size, gracefulness, calm disposition and ‘feathers’ around their hooves.

Owing to the Budweiser Brewery’s breeding program in the United States they are often thought to be an American equine breed. However, as the name suggests, their origin is actually Scottish.

In the middle 18th century they were used for pulling heavy farm equipment in the Clydesdale region of Scotland, now known as Lanarkshire. But apart from being Draught (or Draft) horses they also served as highly prized war horses and are still used today as ‘Drum Horses’ by the British Royal Household Cavalry.

The End of Prohibition

 The repeal of the prohibition on the production and sale of alcoholic drinks in the United States happened on April 7, 1933.

To celebrate the lifting of the ban a coach drawn by a ‘hitch’ of eight Clydesdales, proceeded to transport the first case of post-prohibition Budweiser beer in a special journey from the Anheuser-Busch brewery to Pestalozzi Street in St. Louis.

A tradition was born on that day that still continues 85 years later.

1. Budweiser, The Return of The King

Advertising Agency: Anomaly, USA

The live coverage of the American Super Bowl Football Championships attracts an annual TV audience in excess of 100 million and viewer expectations of being entertained by commercials with rewarding stories, are at an all time high.

Budweiser has a noteworthy record of living up to viewer expectations. Their 2012 Super Bowl commercial, directed by Jake Scott, recalled the historic end of prohibition to popular acclaim.

2. Budweiser, Brotherhood

Advertising Agency: Anomaly, USA

Budweiser’s Clydesdale ‘Brotherhood’ was the most popular commercial aired during the 2013 Super Bowl.

Directed by Jake Scott, the story about the special bond between trainer and horse, achieved 5.5 million views, and over 1.5 million people sharing it, making it the most shared Super Bowl commercial of all time overtaking VW’s ‘The Force’.

3. Budweiser, Puppy Love

Advertising Agency: Anomaly, USA

Traditionally a ‘coach dog’ proudly accompanies the Hitch Drivers. Close ties develop between the dogs and Clydesdales and ‘Puppy Love’ is a story about one such special relationship.

Directed by Jake Scott, the commercial features a soundtrack of “Let Her Go” by Passenger. It was the most shared Super Bowl commercial of 2014 and received over 56 million views.

It was one of YouTube’s 10 most watched commercials of 2014. Within 24 hours of being released online, it was viewed 17 million times.

4. Budweiser, Lost Dog

Advertising Agency: Anomaly, USA

Directed by Jake Scott, Budweiser’s 2015 Super Bowl commercial ‘Lost Dog’ was a sequel to the hugely popular ‘Puppy Love’ and features a great soundtrack of an acoustic version of “I’m Gonna Be 500 Miles” by ‘Sleeping At Last’.

Once again Budweiser won the love of viewers who voted it the best 2015 Super Bowl commercial and according to iSpot’s tracking analysis of online commercials, was viewed 17.8 million times.

5. Budweiser, Not Backing Down

Advertising Agency: Anomaly, USA

For the 2016 Super Bowl, Budweiser decided to change their communication strategy. It seems that spooked by declining sales owing to the huge consumer interest in craft beers and the global growth of Micro Breweries, they decided on a defensive approach of portraying Craft Beer as ‘pretentious hype’ and promoting the prowess of their Macro brewing skills.

Gone were the popular, heartwarming Clydesdales and coach puppy stories, to be replaced by product justification statements of why Budweiser is still the ‘King of Beers’ for ‘real people’.

I will leave it to far more qualified industry observers than myself to comment on the wisdom of this new communication focus. I will add though, that the ‘Not Backing Down’ commercial message left me, and countless viewers, uninspired, unmoved, unimpressed and unconvinced in spite of some great production values directed by Chris Sargent.

In reality Budweiser is one of many quite ordinary beers, and without their brand distinctive Clydesdales they become an even more a ‘run of the mill’, mass-produced beer.

6. Budweiser, Born The Hard Way

Advertising Agency: Anomaly, USA

For the launch of their 2017 campaign during the Super Bowl, Budweiser decided on a commercial about founder Adolphus Busch and his emigration from Hamburg, Germany to New Orleans in the 19th Century, in pursuit of his ‘American Dream’.

Directed by Chris Sargent, the story focuses on how Adolphus Busch overcame discrimination to successfully achieve his ambition to brew ‘The King of Beers’.

2017 was also the year that another German émigré to the USA, Frederick Trump saw his grandson Donald, inaugurated in Washington, as the 45th President of The United States of America.

Although Budweiser claim that the issue of immigration and multiculturalism in their commercial was not planned in any way as a political statement, industry commentators have found the message to be of timely connective relevance.

7. Budweiser, Stand By You

Advertising Agency: David, Miami, USA

For their advertising campaign launch during the 2018 Super Bowl championships, Budweiser decided to highlight the brand’s 30th anniversary of its emergency water program.

They have shipped more than 79 million cans of clean water to areas hard-hit by natural disasters such as last year’s California wildfire victims.

Directed by Henry-Alex Rubin, the ‘Stand By You’ commercial pays homage to Anheuser-Busch’s employees and their emergency water initiative.

The soundtrack features a Skylar Green rendition of the song “Stand By Me” with the proceeds of her single going to the American Red Cross.

8. Budweiser, Beer Country

Advertising Agency: Mosaic, USA

After the Super Bowl, Budweiser released an online commercial featuring the famous Clydesdales when a Facebook poll revealed an overwhelming call to bring them back.

It has been proven over and over again that successful Super Bowl commercials, as far as over a 100 million viewers are concerned, depend on whether there is an entertaining story worth watching.

As tactically interesting as the Budweiser commercials of the last three years might be, they clearly lacked the emotive interest that the eagerly awaited Clydesdales and coach dog puppy stories evoked in so many viewers.

Directed by Iván Mena-Tinoco, the ‘Beer Country’ commercial is more than anything else, about reassuring the millions of Budweiser Clydesdale fans that their beloved icons have not been abandoned.