Michelob Ultra has taken the U.S. beer market by storm. Launched nationally in 2004, the brand is now the third-most-popular beer brand in the U.S and has displaced Miller Lite from third to fourth place. Bud Light and Coors Light still range first and second.
While the major breweries and beer brands in the U.S. struggle, Michelob Ultra is an unprecedented success story. Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite were down 5.7 percent, 3.2 percent and 0.3 percent respectively over year, Michelob Ultra is up 14.8 percent .
“We’re coming off a really big year for Michelob Ultra,” said Azania Andrews, Vice President Marketing for Michelob Ultra at Anheuser Busch in January. “In 2018, we saw our position grow from eighth in the industry to fourth and 14 straight quarters of growth. It’s amazing but with all of that growth, we still have tremendous opportunity to keep growing awareness for the brand nationally.”
The difference is not the product itself which is not so different from other brands like Miller Lite: Michelob Ultra has 4.2% ABV, 2.6 grams of carbs and 95 calories, while Miller Lite has also 4.2% ABV, 3.2 grams of carbs and 96 calories.
The marketing makes the difference.“The way the brand has integrated itself into the lifestyle activity and the minds of people consuming it is a true differentiator,” says beer writer Bryan Roth. The first of its two Super Bowl spots for this year is a 30-second ad that uses robots as a metaphor for those who are so focused on their fitness journey that they don’t stop to enjoy it—or a beer.
“[The tagline], ‘It’s only worth it if you enjoy it,’ in my mind, is an elevated way of saying, ‘Live fit, live fun,’ which we introduced last year,” says Andrews. “It really drives home the idea that people want to live well and have a balance in life without too much compromise.”
The success of Michelob Ultra does not remain unnoticed by competitors. MillerCoors, which sees it other main brands sliding has now announced a new brand which is aimed directly at stealing market share from Michelob Ultra.
Saint Archer Gold, a light lager will be launched nationally on Jan. 1, 2020. The product and its packaging which mirrors Michelob Ultra's slim cans was tested over the past six months in several markets. As could be seen it still has connotations of professional surfers, skateboarders and snowboarders that founded Saint Archer Brewing in San Diego in 2013. The brewery itself was acquired by MillerCoors in late 2015.
“The primary thing that attracted us to Saint Archer from the start was the amazing job the team did building this brand naturally in the active-lifestyle space," Paul Verdu, vice president of sales and marketing for Tenth & Blake, the MillerCoors craft and import division, said in a statement.“Saint Archer Gold was the next obvious opportunity and what we hope is the first of a line of better-for-you brands coming from Saint Archer.”