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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Brewers, Internet Firms Trade Super Bowl Ads




CHICAGO -- As dot-com companies prepare to storm advertizing's citadel, the Super Bowl, two of the biggest U.S. beer brands, Miller Lite and Budweiser, are looking to the Internet for added exposure on game day.


Miller Brewing Co.'s Miller Lite, official sponsor of Super Bowl XXXIV, is sponsoring superbowl.com, the National Football League web site for the Jan. 30 game. Miller will have no advertising during the game but will promote the web site on sports programming and other ads prior to the game.


It becomes the first alcoholic goods marketer to sponsor the site, now in its fifth incarnation. Previous sponsors, all high tech, have included Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp. and Lycos.


While Miller plans to use the Internet to boost its Super Bowl presence, Internet-based firms will advertise during the game in droves in hopes that a 30-second television spot will give them instant recognition among the 135 million viewers.


"It's been kind of an interesting flip-flop," NFL director of corporate communications Chris Widmaier said. "The dot-coms know they need to be in traditional media to raise their general market awareness. Meanwhile, traditional brand marketers such as Miller need to be represented in the Internet world."


Miller, which industry estimates say spent $1 million for sponsorship rights to superbowl.com, will support the site through television, print, radio and outdoor advertising. The site urges visitors to enter an online debate over the best Super Bowl team of all time.


Miller repeats the Super Bowl debate theme through its instore promotion and a television spot.


"This is Miller Lite's most fully integrated, most impactful, highest-profile Super Bowl program in many years," said Robert Mikulay, senior vice president of marketing at the Milwaukee-based unit of Philip Morris Cos. Inc.


"It's thinking outside the box. It's a way to link up with what is obviously a blockbuster event that is not in direct competition with anyone else," said Paul Roller, president of Milwaukee-based Miller Brands, who favors the web promotion.


Widmaier believes the promotion will help Miller drive home its more than 10-year association as the NFL's official postseason sponsor, which has long been blurred by rival Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.'s Super Bowl advertising blitz.


For the past 12 years, St. Louis-based Busch has been the exclusive beer advertiser on the game. For the upcoming ABC broadcast it purchased a full 10 minutes of advertising time.


"In terms of audience reach the Super Bowl is the greatest advertising platform in the world," Tony Ponturo, Busch's vice president of corporate media and sports marketing, said in a statement.


A spokesman said Busch does not disclose how much it spends on advertising. But it signed the deal early this year when prices were around $2 million for a 30-second spot, which would make the total cost around $20 million, compared with about $16 million for five minutes and 15 seconds of advertising on Super Bowl XXXIII. Prices then were $1.8 million per 30-second spot. Now they are going for as much as $3 million.


In addition to its advertising dominance during the game, Busch will use the Internet to air Bud Bowl 2000 on ESPN.com.


"The dot-coms are carving out a niche. They will be screaming to put a face on their site," said Jerry Rosen, president of The Rosen Group, a Chicago-based ad agency specializing in sports marketing.