The 60-second ad starts with eight words sure to bring a pang of uneasiness to any foreigner in a distant land: “You don’t look like you’re from around here.”
Americans are involved in a heated debate about how welcome immigrants are in our society. Meanwhile, a beer so ‘Murican that it put “America” on its labels last year is tapping into its immigrant origin story for an ad to be shown on the country’s biggest stage.
The Super Bowl spot is called “Born the Hard Way,” and it tells the story of Adolphus Busch’s journey from Germany to St. Louis, the first step in forming the brewing company that bears his name.
His trek is part headline from Aleppo, part Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant.”
Busch and other 19th-century migrants are shown flying off a bunk on a ship in stormy seas. He trudges through muddy streets and rain-drenched plains. And in case you didn’t understand that the beer brewer jinxed anything that floats, he leaps off a flaming paddle steamer as someone shouts, “Abandon ship!”
At one point, a man yells at him, “You’re not wanted here.”
Through it all, Busch diagrams distilling processes and sketches in a small notebook a design for a beer bottle.
When a man stitching up his forehead asks Busch why he left Germany, he says, determinedly, “I want to brew a beer.”
The ad was released on YouTube on Tuesday, days after thousands of immigrants were prohibited from entering the country by President Trump’s travel ban.
It’s unclear how much the current debate about immigration factored into Budweiser’s decision to base an ad on its immigrant founder’s journey in 1857 — or to release it six days before the big game.
In a statement emailed to The Washington Post, a Budweiser spokesman shied away from political comparisons.
“Our focus this week is on our Super Bowl ads and our brands,” said Marcel Marcondes, vice president of marketing at Anheuser-Busch. “We created the Budweiser commercial to highlight the ambition of our founder, Adolphus Busch, and his unrelenting pursuit of the American dream. This is a story about our heritage and the uncompromising commitment that goes into brewing our beer. It’s an idea we’ve been developing along with our creative agency for nearly a year.”
The company said in a news release that it hopes the ad will “resonate with today’s entrepreneurial generation — those who continue to strive for their dreams.”
Busch was the first to use pasteurization and beer bottles to keep beer fresh, and to use mechanical refrigeration and cold railroad cars to ship beer long distances, according to the State Historical Society of Missouri. The Budweiser spot paints him as a sudsier version of Sergey Brin, the immigrant founder of Google.
“When Budweiser told us they wanted to celebrate those who embody the American spirit, we realized the ultimate story lived within their own brand history,” said Mike Byrne, global chief creative officer at the ad agency Anomaly, in a Budweiser news release. “Adolphus Busch is the hero of the Anheuser-Busch American dream story, which makes him the perfect protagonist.”
On Friday, Trump announced that he would temporarily close U.S. borders to refugees and to people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The ban has launched days of turmoil. The acting U.S. attorney general said she could not legally defend the immigration ban in court. Trump fired her. Lawsuits protesting the ban have cropped up, as have protests and statements from former president Barack Obama and a group of other Nobel laureates.
It’s not the first recent ad that some have claimed takes a dig at Trump. CNN Money opined that an Amazon Prime ad that features an imam and a priest who are good friends — and who gift each other knee braces so they can pray — is a shot at the president. (Amazon.com chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
The Budweiser ad has a happy ending. The guy whose words about Busch seemed to set a menacing tone at the beginning of the ad is Eberhard Anheuser, a German-born soap manufacturer turned brewer, and the guy on the other side of the Anheuser-Busch hyphen.
He buys the recent immigrant a beer.