FCB Chicago and Bud Light Lime-A-Rita Party Like It’s 2002

By Erik Oster 

FCB Chicago launched a new campaign for Anheuser-Busch InBev’s struggling Bud Light Lime-A-Rita flavored malt beverage brand with a 30-second broadcast spot set to Nelly‘s 2002 hit “Hot in Herre.”

The song, which you may recognize from your junior prom, fits the already outdated brand (which launched in 2012), but not in a good way. FCB Chicago’s ad sees a couple of women at an art show being offered a cold Lime-A-Rita over ice (a bit of a bizarre place for the beverage), with the overly-formal affair subsequently turning into a party. The spot made its broadcast debut this week, also airing during the Grammy Awards, marking a pivot to a new approach which Rita brand senior director Mallika Monteiro described to AdAge as bringing “margarita moments to life in unexpected places.” She added that the campaign would include five ads in total and be the brand’s biggest push yet.

That’s a big gamble for a brand which saw a 23% drop in volume in the fourth quarter of last year. In addition to the core Lime-A-Rita brand, described in the spot as a “bold margarita” and marketed for weekend consumption, the campaign will also introduce the new 4% ABV Splash line extension, marketed as a “refreshing margarita” for weekday drinking. 

Lime-A-Rita’s struggling performance can be explained in part by recent changes in the flavored malt beverage category, most notably the rise of the Not Your Father’s Root Beer alcopop offering from Small Town Brewery (which Eugene Kashper and other Pabst principals recently acquired an interest in), MillerCoors’ Henry’s Hard Soda line and related brands. AB In-Bev launched Best Damn Brewing Company last December to compete with the brand, offering Best Damn Root Beer and Best Damn Apple Ale so far. But, perhaps due to ever-increasing competition and lagging sales in its core market, A-B InBev seems to be going all-in on the flavored malt beverage category, competing with new alcopop offerings directly with the Best Damn Brewing Company launch while simultaneously looking to boost its four-year-old Lime-A-Rita brand.

In an earnings call last October,  A-B InBev CEO Carlos Brito claimed the Splash extension could be just what the brand needs. “We stayed in one part of the market, the higher alcohol segment,” he said. “And there was a lot of activity in both the higher and the lower alcohol segment, and we didn’t capture any of the activity in the lower-alcohol segment. So, now with Splash, we’re coming with a competitive solution for that.”

Expect to see more advertising behind both Lime-A-Rita and Lime-A-Rita Splash soon.