The Beer Battle Continues as MillerCoors Sues Anheuser-Busch for Its Super Bowl Ad

Lawsuit claims spot deliberately misled consumers

A still from Bud Light's Super Bowl spot. Bud Light
Headshot of Diana Pearl

MillerCoors is suing Anheuser-Busch, alleging that the latter misguided consumers about the makeup of MillerCoors’ products with its recent campaign in the Big Game.

Set in the Bud Light “Dilly Dilly” universe, one of Anheuser-Busch’s Super Bowl ads this year featured the Bud Knight arriving at the Miller Lite and Coors castles with a massive barrel of corn syrup, which he claimed had been mistakenly delivered to the Bud Light castle. The Bud Knight and the rest of his medieval crew then venture to their competitors’s castles, who both confirm that yes, they brew their respective beers with corn syrup.

The spot set off a beer battle of sorts. MillerCoors ran a full-page ad in the New York Times addressing the spot within days of the Big Game. (It also drew ire from other sectors: One of the vice presidents of the National Corn Growers Association, Kevin Ross, shared a video of himself pouring Bud Light down the drain.)

Now, MillerCoors is taking more serious measures to fight Bud Light’s claims. Dubbing the spot “false and misleading,” it filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, asking for an injunction to keep Anheuser-Busch from airing the ad again. Though MillerCoors’s beers are indeed brewed with corn syrup—a fact the company confirmed in the aforementioned New York Times ad—the yeast used in the fermentation breaks down the corn syrup so that none actually ends up in the final product.

MillerCoors is also accusing Anheuser-Busch of failure to distinguish between corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup in an effort to “frighten consumers.” (The latter has been linked to obesity; the former has not.)

“We have always believed in transparency, which is why we were the first major brewer to put nutritional information and all of our ingredients online,” said Marty Maloney, manager of media relations at MillerCoors, told Adweek in a statement. “But while its Bud Light brand is talking all about transparency, Anheuser-Busch has admitted that its campaign was designed to mislead the public. Anheuser-Busch is fearmongering over a common beer ingredient it uses in many of its own beers, as a fermentation aid that is not even present in the final product.  This deliberate deception is bad for the entire beer category. We are showing the world the truth.”

Bud Light is taking the lawsuit in stride and not backing down from its corn syrup-filled campaign.

“MillerCoors’ lawsuit is baseless and will not deter Bud Light from providing consumers with the transparency they demand,” Gemma Hart, vp of communications for Anheuser-Busch, said in a statement shared with Adweek. “We stand behind the Bud Light transparency campaign and have no plans to change the advertising.”

@dianapearl_ Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.