A Judge Finally Weighed in on Those Corn Syrup Super Bowl Ads, and Both Miller and Bud Are Claiming Victory
It’s almost June, meaning most non-Patriots fans probably can’t even remember who won the Super Bowl — but one battle from February 3 is still going on nearly four months later (besides the debate over why Adam Levine couldn’t keep his shirt on). As you may recall, Bud Light launched its now-infamous “corn syrup” attack ads against Miller Lite and Coors Light during the big game, and as silly as these “Dilly Dilly”-themed commercials may have seemed at the time, the whole “Corntroversy” continues to play out in court after MillerCoors sued Anheuser-Busch claiming that the ads were misleading.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge William Conley for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled only partially in favor of MillerCoors’ request for a preliminary injunction, meaning some of Anheuser-Busch’s ads would have to stop running but others could continue. Unsurprisingly, both sides have claimed victory.
“We are pleased with today’s ruling that will force Anheuser Busch to change or remove advertisements that were clearly designed to mislead the American public,” MillerCoors CEO Gavin Hattersley said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Anheuser-Busch focused on the ads that can keep airing. “Yesterday’s ruling is a victory for consumers as it allows Bud Light’s Super Bowl advertising to continue,” Cesar Vargas, the brand’s VP of legal and corporate affairs, stated.
So what was really decided? The judge chose to focus on the language surrounding the term “corn syrup.” Specifically, Bud Light’s ads can say that Miller Lite and Coors Light are “brewed with,” “made with,” or “uses” corn syrup because these statements are objectively true; MillerCoors has admitted this all along. However, MillerCoors objected to any implication that its two beers had corn syrup in them when they reach consumers because no corn syrup is left after fermentation. As a result, Conley ruled that the use of the words “corn syrup” in other contexts was not allowed: for instance, Bud Light can’t say that it is better because it has “no corn syrup” or “100% less corn syrup.”
But overall, because of how this has played out, Bud Light is likely the bigger winner here whether MillerCoors wants to admit it or not. Consumers won’t necessarily feel the impact of the ads that legally have to be removed because you don’t really notice what you don’t see. However, since Bud Light can continue to run other ads, like the very first Super Bowl ad, consumers will see that the campaign is still going.
As might be expected, Bud Light has decided to take this and run with it. “We’re actually running the corn syrup ad that kicked this whole thing off as early as this weekend,” Anheuser-Busch spokesman Matt Kohan told Reuters on Saturday. Talk about pouring corn syrup in the wound.