Molson Coors has big plans for its flagship brand as it prepares for its second crack at the Super Bowl since rival Anheuser-Busch InBev loosened its exclusivity over alcohol advertising. Coors Light is running a 30-second spot in the first half of the game on Feb. 11, the company confirmed, resurrecting a silver bullet train concept introduced in 2005. The move looks to extend a recent run of sales momentum and court favor with newer Gen Z customers, executives said.
For its first appearance in a dozen years, the sleek locomotive dispensing cold beers and good vibes has been outfitted to address modern anxieties, embodying themes from the beer marketer’s ongoing “Made to Chill” platform centered on moments to kick back and relax. The overhaul comes with a fitting new name, the Coors Light Chill Train, and design touches such as train cars shaped like beer cans.
“Since 2019, when we started the ‘Made to Chill’ campaign, we’ve added an emotional layer to our advertising,” said Marcelo Pascoa, vice president of marketing for the Coors family of brands, in an interview about the Chill Train’s return. “In this crazy, hectic world we live in, there is a subversive power in choosing to have that moment of chill.”
Along with the bigger emotional appeal, the Chill Train is getting upgraded with tech bells and whistles. With help from computer-generated imagery, Coors Light will digitally insert 100 fans into the vehicle’s cars during the commercial. Participants will have the chance to post their experience on social media to extend the effort to the increasingly important second screen and realm of user-generated content.
Since the Chill Train will fly by quickly during the broadcast — a press release claims the locomotive moves at 900 mph — Coors Light plans to release a slowed-down version on its YouTube channel on Super Bowl Sunday. That will give viewers a chance to comb through the passengers, with the inclusion of some surprise guests. The length of the slo-mo cut is to be determined, a spokesperson said.
“Through social and digital, we’re going to be able to introduce people to different moments and allow them to enjoy all of the little Easter eggs,” said Pascoa.
Coors Light will tease its big game play during the NFC Championship on Sunday, Jan. 28. Those interested in jumping on the Chill Train can visit Coors Light’s website to reserve specific spots and upload a photo of themselves, with seats available in batches every day at 1 p.m. ET through Feb. 2. Winners will sign a contract and receive $500 in talent fees, along with limited-edition merchandise.
“There is a special component toward being a part of a big spot,” said Pascoa of the compensation package. “We wanted to treat people accordingly.”
Coors Light debuted its branded train in the pre-iPhone, pre-streaming era, with splashy TV campaigns accompanied by The O’Jays hit single “Love Train” and cameos from celebrities like Ice-T. While the Chill Train’s engines have been left dormant for over a decade, the creative left an enduring impression.
For last year’s big game, Molson Coors partnered with DraftKings on a betting game that revealed 74% of participants believed the locomotive would make a comeback for Super Bowl LVII, according to Pascoa. While the appetite for the Chill Train to again hit the rails was clear, agency partner Droga5 was the first to raise the prospect of taking the strategy to the Super Bowl.
“It was a surprise for us,” said Pascoa of the pitch process behind the campaign. “We didn’t tell the agency that we wanted the train to come back. They brought that idea to us.”
Bringing back the Chill Train could help Coors Light tap into the current marketing wave around 2000s nostalgia. But the Rocky Mountains-themed brewer has sights set on its “next generation” of fans as well with more Gen Zers coming of legal drinking age and consumers at large switching up their beverage preferences.
“We are experiencing a level of momentum that is really unprecedented for us,” said Pascoa. “More people than ever are reaching for a Coors Light. If we’re going to deliver to all of those people, why not use the best delivery system we’ve ever had?”
Coors Light has benefited from chief competitor Bud Light getting swept up in controversy last year over a partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. The misfire, one of the highest profile instances of a brand becoming embattled in culture wars, has led Molson Coors to significantly ramp up marketing spending.
Coors Light stood as the fastest gainer in volume share among beer brands and the fastest-growing premium light beer offering in the U.S. in 2023, per Circana estimates cited in the announcement. Rather than run a multibrand Super Bowl ad, as in 2023, Molson Coors will keep the spotlight squarely on Coors Light for Feb. 11’s match-up at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Coors Light will additionally air a bespoke spot in Canada for the broadcast.
Regarding the game’s host city, Pascoa said the details of local Vegas activations are still being finalized. The executive also played coy about whether the Chill Train’s run will extend past Super Bowl LVIII into the rest of 2024.
“What I can tell you is that this a very special, iconic element in our advertising history,” said Pascoa. “We’re committed to making the most of this moment. We’re committed to using the train as an element that can strengthen our emotional connection with our current fans and our new fans as well.”