One of the most dominant players in pro football history -- and a convicted drunken driver -- is about to appear in a Bud Light public service ad to urge folks not to drink and drive on Super Bowl Sunday.
Bruce Smith, the all-time National Football League sack leader who played a combined 19 seasons with the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins before retiring in 2003, concedes in the ad: "I disappointed myself and those close to me."
He urges viewers: "Please, learn from my story and make sure a safe ride home is also part of your game plan."
The PSA, which Anheuser-Busch will post on its Facebook page and YouTube channel, will not be broadcast. But it is expected to be widely shared on social media, if only because it is the brewer's first message featuring a celebrity convicted of drunken driving.
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For savvy beer marketers, high-profile public relations moves like this are aimed at bolstering image.
But one advocacy group finds the ad hypocritical. "What Anheuser-Busch is really saying is 'Drink up'," says Bruce Lee Livingston, executive director of watchdog group Alcohol Justice. "They are not promoting moderation in drinking at all. They're committed to promoting beer consumption."
In a phone interview, Bruce Smith, 50, says that's not at all the message of the ad. "The object of this campaign is to focus on Super Bowl Sunday and encourage people who plan to drink to have a game plan," he says. "Anheuser-Busch is trying to make it a safer experience for all fans."
A-B is a Super Bowl advertising kingpin. It spent nearly $146 million on Super Bowl advertising between 2009 and 2013 -- far more than any other advertiser, says Kantar Media, the media buying research specialist. Smith, who is being paid by A-B for his appearance, says he's not been in an A-B spot before, but was in a Coors Light ad years ago.
Smith was arrested in 2009 near his Virginia Beach home after being out with business associates and consuming "several" glasses of wine, he says. Now, Smith says, when he goes out with friends, he has a designated driver who is a former Virginia state trooper.
He hopes people get his message. "To pull a scab off an old wound is not something anyone likes to do," he says. "If this helps one person make a wise decision, it's worth it."
--By USA Today