If you’re a red-blooded American who has spent any time watching March Madness™, you’ve been subjected to the same four commercials over and over. One of those is the Michelob Ultra commercial that premiered during the Super Bowl. You may not immediately recognize it as a Michelob Ultra commercial, because as is the habit with “healthy” beers, they bury that it’s a beer commercial under it being a fitness commercial where you get to reward yourself with a low-calorie beer at the very end. The Michelob Ultra commercial has more in common with a Fitbit ad than it does your usual beer ad.
But that’s not why I hate this commercial. (Which is enough of a reason.) No. It commits an even graver sin than trying to equate beer with exercise: It does so while the theme song to Cheers plays over it. Uh uh. No. Stop it.
I love the Cheers theme. It’s the kind of thing that if you catch me after a few beers and in the right headspace is going to make me tear up.
Let’s check out those lyrics:
Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Now, I don’t doubt that some people feel that way when they go to their SoulCycle class or their CrossFit gym, as the commercial posits. But for most of us, that’s… the internet. But after the internet, it’s our local watering hole, the kind of place where EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME. And, ya know, they’re always glad you came. Life is too hard, as is making your way in the world today, for the place where your troubles are all the same to be the place where you’re doing constant burpees to get ripped abs. And no one in a Crossfit gym has ever heard that opening piano chord of the Cheers theme and thought, “I’m gonna flip the hell out of some tires now!” THIS DOES NOT FIT.
The Michelob Ultra commercial also has no clue what the iconic show is about. Cheers was about the everyman. The people in that show look like the kind of people you know in real life. They were not Hollywood pretty. They were barely Boston pretty. But they were perfect! It was a show about nothing except drinking beer with the regulars in your bar long before Seinfeld was branded a show about nothing.
Not once did Norm, as he took his regular spot at the end of the bar, ever contemplate dead-lifts, endless crunches, or carrying someone across a gym like in the commercial. Everyone on Cheers would punch everyone in that Michelob Ultra commercial… except they’d have to leave the bar to do it, and that they couldn’t be bothered with. Except Carla. I bet Carla throws down with some exercise bros and broettes.
The end of the Michelob Ultra commercial ends with the calorie and carb content of the beer. Norm, Cliff, Woody, and Frasier never counted a damn calorie and would be embarrassed by their theme being used in an ad that does. Sam might have because he was vain, but only until they made fun of him and then he would have stopped.
On the other hand, Taco Bell is also using a riff on the Cheers theme song and it works much better.
First of all, they changed the lyrics to be specific to Taco Bell and the situation in the ad. The closing line “When your morning is hell, just go to Taco Bell” gets stuck in your head and relates to the product much better than anything fitbit Michelob Ultra does. I’m pretty convinced to pick up breakfast at Taco Bell tomorrow as that’s been earwormed into my brain. Second of all, fast food breakfast is the kind of thing the characters who inhabited the Cheers universe would have endorsed, not openly mocked.
While a beer company might seem like the obvious choice to showcase the Cheers theme, execution matters, and the Taco Bell spot shares more with the spirit of the show than… the spirit.