Now with the opponents in SuperBowl XLI decided, it is time to look at how beer and football have huddled together.
In a classic routine, comedian George Carlin analysed the differences between baseball and football: baseball is played in a park; football is played on the gridiron; in baseball you go home, in football you wind up in the end zone. If football is the more macho sport, not surprisingly the collectables for football have always had more of a macho feel than those used to advertise baseball: grills, grilling utensils, coolers and other tailgating tools have promoted beer for this great tradition of the football pre-game.
Schlitz was the first brewery to utilize the SuperBowl for a true advertising blitz. In the early 1980s, Schlitz’ master brewer, Frank Sellinger, hosted a live taste test. During breaks in the game, a cut away would go to the studio, where a group of consumers would taste three different beers and then pull a lever. This was known as the Great American Taste Test. Unfortunately, this novel campaign was not able to revive Schlitz’ sliding sales.
The only NFL team I recall being fully owned by a brewery was the Baltimore Colts. The National Brewing Co.’s ownership of the Colts is also tied to Colt 45, the malt liquor the company developed in 1963. It is suggested that the name is derived from the name of the team and the number 45 from a star player on the team. It might also have referred to the number of players on the Colts’ roster.
Over the last 20 years, television advertising of the big game has belonged to Anheuser-Busch. Many collectibles have been produced to advertise the annual Bud Bowl: helmets promoting Bud or Bud Light that fit on the neck of a bottle; coasters and playbooks; and inflatables in the shape of the Bud Bowl players, goal posts, and footballs.
Miller Brewing was the official beer of the NFL for numerous years and promoted the various SuperBowls with coasters, cans, and bottle labels. They also issued an inflatable chair emblazoned with the NFL team and Miller logos, and of course it had cup holders. The chair was designed for in-store promotions but was also available to consumers through a mail-in offer. Miller also produced an annual football handbook. This pamphlet listed all of the major college and pro conference schedules, as well as info on the various bowl games.
Coors now has the rights to be the official beer of the NFL. Each year their cans and bottle labels promote the big game. Besides once issuing a football shaped bottle, they also issue a 5-liter can of beer with bold graphics promoting each year’s SuperBowl. Following the close of the season, Coors also issues a can to salute the winning team.
The Pittsburgh Brewing Co. has probably issued the greatest number of football-themed cans over the years. Each year that the Steelers won a SuperBowl, an Iron City can was issued with a team photo across the label. Many of their star players, coaches, and even their announcer have all been commemorated on beer cans. This has continued with new technology this year, when Pittsburgh Brewing commemorated Jerome Bettis on one of their Iron City Light Aluminum bottles.
I am sure at the close of this year’s game and the beginning of the 2007 season we can expect more items promoting two of America’s great traditions.