Cannes Lions

Kings of Beer

ACE CONTENT, New York / ABINBEV / 2020

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In key markets like the U.S., consumers are drinking less beer and have switched to craft brews they associate more closely with ‘quality.’ But, in this category, quality messaging in commercial advertising isn’t effective, nor long enough to tell the full story. Globally it has become increasing difficult to reach consumers as ad blockers become more prevalent and viewers migrate to premium, subscription-based channels

These regional and global forces gave rise to our brief… how do you reach younger consumers who’ve never tried a Budweiser? How do we tell a quality story in a way that changes people’s perceptions? How do we create an asset that people want to see, and potentially even pay for?

ABI’s Chief Brewmaster says, “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will and it won’t be flattering”. For too long, Budweiser had let others tell its story. It was time for that to change.


“Everyone wants to be the best at something, we just happen to be the best at brewing beer.”

Brewmasters are great characters since they’re a combination of artists and scientists. Any brewmaster will tell you, the American lager is one of the most difficult styles to brew, let alone consistently well, at scale, globally.

KINGS OF BEER is about a diverse group of elite Brewmasters from 65 breweries and 23 countries, who share an uncompromising ambition to be the best and to brew the world's most iconic American Lager.

Every month, samples are sent to a tasting panel of experts – headed by a fifth generation brewmaster – who control the quality of over a quarter of the world’s beer from one room in St. Louis. The year-long competition is intense, as the difference between first and fifth is hundredths of a point, with more than a crown at stake.


Telling Budweiser’s story to a new generation of beer drinkers would take more than traditional advertising. A Super Bowl ad about quality wouldn’t cut it. It demands true storytelling that exists authentically in the channels consumers trust and deem worth their time and money. Equally it needs to be worthy of the commitment that Budweiser’s brewmasters show to the beer they brew.

Knowing we’re in the “golden age of documentary” (CBS News, 2019), and brewing is having a moment right now, we created an original feature length documentary film that would appeal to anyone who loved beer, or wants to be the best at what they do.

A film distributed and marketed as a true entertainment asset would provide all the associated promotion required including trailers, posters, social, influencers, etc. that would drive reach towards a whole new audience on the streaming and on demand channels they value most.


Creatively, what makes good documentary is strong characters, access to a world few people have seen before and stakes that keep you engaged. This allowed us to get unprecedented access to rarely seen people, process and methods of the biggest beer company on the planet. Far from an ad shoot, production took nearly 3 years and over 50+ shooting days in five countries.

Rather than make the film and hope it got picked up, or “pay to play” with ad supported networks, we had to secure distribution in authentic entertainment channels. We sold the film to Gravitas Ventures and announced exclusively in The Wrap. We ran in select theaters which then triggered output deals with cable operators like Fios, TVOD (iTunes), inflight entertainment (Delta, Emirates, LATAM), DVD and SVOD (Amazon Prime). Kings of Beer is currently distributed in 100 million households in the U.S. and 1 billion worldwide.


A Top 10 Documentary on iTunes, the film was met with critical acclaim, propelling it into mainstream culture and changing perceptions.

The LA Times said, “with charming graphics and warm cinematography…the film looks great and frequently entertains,” suggesting it would “bring some former fans back to the fold.”

One of Inc.’s Top 10 Business Movies of 2019, they said the brewmasters’ “competitive instincts and dedication to making the best possible product should strike a chord with any entrepreneur.”

An official selection of the Academy Award-qualifying St. Louis Film Festival, it won Best Feature Documentary at the Boulder Film and Brew Festival, NY and LA Film Awards. It’s now streaming on Amazon Prime (~100 million US homes) and available in up to 1 billion homes worldwide.

Compared to the ephemeral world of advertising, the film’s success will continue as an entertainment asset driving awareness, engagement and revenue over the next decade.

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