The Super Bowl is one the year’s most reliable sources of a particular brand of American patriotism, with everything from the commercials to the halftime show to the commentary luxuriating in a bombastic show of red, white, and blue.
Budweiser is one of the best examples of this strain of flag-waving patriotism: Just last year, the company decided to temporarily rename its signature beer “America” for the summer of 2016 through the election. The company’s Super Bowl ads tend to follow in that vein, showing Budweiser fans from sea to shining sea, or even sending Clydesdale horses clomping through forests to kneel at ground zero.
But one of Budweiser’s new commercials — which it released ahead of the Super Bowl, on January 31 — has spiked its patriotism with a decidedly more pointed message in 2017. Titled “Born the Hard Way,” the ad tells the story of how the Anheuser-Busch brewing company first came to be — a story that starts with Adolphus Busch leaving Germany in 1857 to immigrate to America.
The minute-long spot opens with a man in an American bar telling Busch that he doesn’t look like he’s “from around here,” and then flashes back to Busch’s fraught sea journey to America, where he was immediately ridiculed for being foreign. But then the man who first eyed Busch buys the German a beer, and reveals himself to be none other than Ebert Anheuser — and lo, Anheuser-Busch was born.
“When nothing stops your dream,” the ad intones, “this is the beer we drink.”
Did one of the country’s biggest breweries really start over a simple beer? Probably not. But the fact that Budweiser is devoting one of its incredibly expensive Super Bowl ad spots to what’s essentially a short film about its company’s immigrant roots is significant — especially the week after President Trump signed his massively controversial executive order that severely curtails immigration from seven majority-Muslims countries and bans Syrian refugees indefinitely.
More than 100 million people watch the Super Bowl every year. And when they sit down to watch the Falcons versus the Patriots this Sunday, they will see the story of how the sheer determination of an immigrant seeking a better life in the United States is responsible for the cans of Budweiser filling their coolers today.