Josh Noel

Josh Noel is the author of "Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch and How Craft Beer Became Big Business" and writes about travel and beer for the Chicago Tribune.

Billion-dollar burger, billion-dollar beer

This bit of co-marketing, which popped up during halftime of a weekend World Cup match, momentarily seemed an odd fit. 

Bud and BK.JPG

The ad is for a Burger King product called the American Brewhouse King — gooey, teeming slabs of beef, piled high with thing upon thing (what are those things?), snazzed up with a patriotic beer-fueled name and, most oddly, forging a kinship with Budweiser, never mind that, as the fine print says, the beer isn't available at Burger King and the burger isn't made with Budweiser. The beer and burger are simply there on our televisions, basking in each other's glow.

What accounts for a Bud and Burger King marketing partnership, other than both being fading American icons trying desperately to recast themselves for a new generation of eaters and drinkers?

And then it clicked: both brands funnel back to the same band of billionaires.

It was a reminder that the strings are pulled on our shopping decisions every day in a million quiet ways. Most of us can't instinctively identify them; we're not meant to identify them. We're not meant to think about how or why a product appears before us — or especially who benefits when we buy it. (And the media? They're often the first to fall in line: "If your summer dreams include enjoying an ice-cold Bud and a juicy burger, you’re going to love Burger King’s new collaboration with Budweiser."

Oh, and by the way, those same Bud and Burger King billionaires also own 10 American craft breweries.