Saturday, February 04, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Schlitz vs. Michelob, LIVE during the Super Bowl

The 1981 live Great American Taste Test (Super Bowl XV)

During the broadcast of Super Bowl LI (that is, the 51st Super Bowl) tomorrow, both Snickers and Hyundai will air commercials that have been filmed live. I'm not clear on what advantage is accrued by filming a commercial three days earlier (Snicker) or a few minutes earlier (Hyundai) and broadcasting it as 'live.' The thrill of not editing, perhaps?

The last time the Super Bowl has actually featured a 'live,' not pre-recorded and edited, commercial, was 1981, during Super Bowl XV (15). Broadcast live from New Orleans, the host city of that year's championship game, Schlitz Brewing ran "The Great American Beer Test," a 60-second taste test of its flagship beer vs. Michelob, brewed by Anheuser-Busch.

The 1981 live Great American Taste Test (02)

The spot was hosted by Tommy Bell, a former NFL referee dressed in referee zebra stripes. Before the broadcast, one-hundred "loyal Michelob drinkers." had sampled Schlitz and Michelob in unmarked ceramic beer steins. When the commercial went live, each pulled a lever to indicate their preference.

Part of the appeal of a live broadcast is the spontaneity; the anticipation of an unedited gaffe or unintended serendipity. When Mr. Bell explained the voting procedure, he did well, obviously well-rehearsed, except on one occasion. Hilariously, he seemed to verbally stumble, to hesitate, when saying "Schlitz," his sponsor, having no such difficulty saying "Michelob."

As the commercial concluded, an electronic football scoreboard tallied the result, and Mr. Bell announced it. Fifty of those one-hundred Michelob drinkers had preferred Schlitz. A tie.

In the game, the Oakland Raiders defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10.

But five months after the game, Schlitz would close its Milwaukee brewery, forced to so by a continuing downward spiral in sales, never recovering from a very public cheapening of ingredients and change of process. The following year, the entire company would be sold to Stroh Brewing, and "the beer that made Milwaukee famous," brewed since 1849, was no more.

Schlitz sold today is brewed by Molson Coors for Pabst, itself a brewery without any brewing facilities.


1 comment:

  1. I love an old school beer, unfortunately Budweiser is about the only one available. I swear it takes different since Inbev bought them out.


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