“Game, set and match” to Anheuser-Busch as MillerCoors files lawsuit over Bud Light’s claim that MillerCoors uses corn syrup in its beer products.

This corn syrup kerfuffle started with Bud Light’s Super Bowl commercial. As an extension of their silly “dilly-dilly” campaign, they sent the big blue, steel-clad Bud Knight on a sacred quest to return the misdelivered wooden-wheeled mega-cask of Corn Syrup to its rightful intended recipient … anyone but Bud Light.

Well, it looks like MillerCoors took the bait. Despite its outrage at Anheuser-Busch, it does not deny using corn syrup, an ingredient that may or may not be bad for you. Of course, high fructose corn syrup seems to be the latest example of a food product that we’ve all consumed our entire lives that is now considered to have potential adverse effects, regardless of what the Mayo Clinic experts have to say.

The marketing gurus for Bud Light were likely high-fiving each other when they learned MillerCoors recently filed suit over their Bud Knight ads that seemingly split hairs on corn syrup usage. MillerCoors is also running its own ads that pretend to show the film crew, including the actor playing Bud Knight, drinking Miller Lite between takes – proof that MillerCoors has been thrown off course and feels the need to respond to Bud’s ads.

Clearly, the Super Bowl was phase one. Phase two is the NCAA Tournament games. Bud Light will reinforce, over-and-over again, that both Miller Lite and Coors Light beers (both MillerCoors products) use corn syrup and Bud Light does not.

To the credit of Anheuser-Busch, it found the soft underbelly – that MillerCoors’ does not list ingredients on its packaging. Bud Light, of course, does and points this out loudly and proudly in its ads because “you deserve to know your beer’s ingredients.” No lawsuit is going to erase the impression this forms in a beer consumer’s mind.

This reminds me of President Nixon proclaiming, “I am not a crook” and President Clinton saying, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” many years ago. In both cases, the assertions only affirmed what both individuals were trying to deny – you probably were a crook, you likely did have sexual relations with that woman.  In the case of MillerCoors products – there is corn syrup in your beer’s ingredients.

Some may say that the right play for MillerCoors is to continue making its beer as is and ignore Bud Light’s advertising. That may be true, unless there is market research indicating that the current beer drinking crowd does not want corn syrup in what it consumes. If that is the case, kudos to Bud for recognizing it and seizing the opportunity.

This volley between the two major brewers appears to reflect the impact that craft beer is having in the marketplace. As the major brands are losing market share to craft brews, they are trying to take it from each other.

Regardless, the next time someone asks you about the power of effective marketing, point to the response from MillerCoors to Bud Light’s “corn syrup” and “ingredients” spots. In the current battle between the mega-brewers, the ingredients, or lack of a particular ingredient, appear to favor Bud from a marketing perspective.