Super Bowl viewership lowest in 10 years while advertising costs increased

Posted at 4:52 PM, Feb 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-04 18:52:09-05
Superbowl 53
SuperBowl 53

The Super Bowl is traditionally the most-watched television event of the year in the U.S., and its audience has not dropped below 100 million viewers since 2009.

But this year the New England Patriots win over the Los Angeles Rams was seen by 100.7 million people, the smallest Super Bowl audience in a decade.

Not only is Super Bowl Sunday the biggest day of the year for football- it is the most expensive advertising day of the year as well.

Advertisers spent over $5 million for commercial spots during Super Bowl 53, actually up a little bit from last year.

One Super Bowl ad that attracted a lot of attention was Bud Light’s medieval-themed commercials promoting how it does not use corn syrup, mocking rivals Miller Lite and Coors Light for using the sweetener.

Bud Light Super Bowl ad
Bud Light Super Bowl ad

Compared to its competitors, Bud Light uses rice instead of corn syrup to sweeten its product, but that does not make it nutritionally much different.

Social media chatter over the ad got a boost when the National Corn Growers Association expressed its disapproval in a tweet shown below.

Sweeteners and starches can be used in the fermenting process to make beers which might result in slightly different tastes, but are generally the same, said Harry Schuhmacher, editor of Beer Business Daily.

“You could use doughnuts if you wanted,” Schumacher said.

Corn syrup isn’t exactly the same as table sugar or the high-fructose corn syrup used in many packaged foods, but that distinction is beside the point because there’s very little sugar content remaining in any light beer, said Bonnie Liebman of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“The real problem is that many people don’t think about the calories in alcoholic beverages,” Liebman said.

In fact, 12-ounce cans of Bud Light and Miller Lite list zero grams of sugar, while Coors Light lists 1 gram. Each has around 100 calories, with carbs ranging from about 3 to 7 grams.

Starting in February, Bud Light voluntarily decided to add nutrition labels on its packages.

Garrett Oliver, brewmaster for Brooklyn Brewery, said the Bud Light ad seems to play into the unhealthy image of high-fructose corn syrup.

So why might rice be a superior ingredient than corn syrup for making beer? A Bud Light representative said in a statement that different recipes create different flavors and that rice provides a “clean, crisp taste” and that it’s up to consumers “to decide what beer is right for them.”

Bud Light parent company Anheuser-Busch reached out to the National Corn Growers Association “looking to make it right” and asked for a meeting with farmers. They also issued a statement saying in part, “We fully support corn growers and will continue to invest in the corn industry. Bud Light’s Super Bowl commercials are only meant to point out a key difference in Bud Light from some other light beers.”

However, Anheuser-Busch makes other beers that list corn syrup as an ingredient.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)