Miller Lite’s ‘Great Taste, Less Filling’ returns, with J.J. Watt, David ‘Big Papi’ Ortiz, Mia Hamm, Luke Wilson and more

In the mid-1970s, a brand-new Miller Lite needed a bold message to reach consumers who had likely never encountered a light beer before.

That’s when it unveiled one of the most iconic beer campaigns of all time, featuring a collection of famous retired athletes -- dubbed the Miller Lite All Stars -- who debated which of Miller Lite’s attributes were more important: “great taste” or “less filling.”

Now a new generation of Miller Lite All Stars is ready to continue the eternal debate, as the iconic campaign returns. To bring it back, Miller Lite is tapping into nostalgia in a modern way – a theme that is more relevant than ever to attract both those familiar with the old campaign and new Miller Lite drinkers alike.

For Ann Legan, vice president of marketing for Miller Lite, the campaign taps into the very essence of Miller Lite.

“Miller Lite was created to be a disrupter,” says Legan. “Right now, the brand has incredible momentum, so how do we stay true to the Miller Lite’s DNA and accelerate where we are today? We’re doing it by staying true to who we are and bringing back a beloved campaign.”

The classic campaign, which ran from the ‘70s until the early ‘90s and featured former stars John Madden and Bob Uecker, was ranked as one of the Top 100 Campaigns of the 20th Century.” And just like the original, the new All Stars campaign will feature some of the top retired athletes in their sports, including J.J. Watt, Reggie Miller, Mia Hamm, David Ortiz and Jorge Posada.

“It’s a lineup of heavy hitters,” says Legan.

Joining them is actor Luke Wilson, who valiantly attempts to interject some reason into the discussion.

Miller Lite is giving the ad a huge push, starting with the full 60-second spot running during the college basketball tournament.

It has multiple versions, including a 30-second clip that takes place in a basketball suite.  

The ad nods to the brand's past with subtle touches yet brings the classic campaign into the modern day. “With that length, we can really tell a story,” says Legan. “There’s a new group of Miller Lite drinkers that can relate to what the brand is all about.”

Legan says that the new campaign is expected to help accelerate what has already been remarkable growth for Miller Lite. In the off-premise, the brand has picked up 9.9% in dollar sales, for the 13 weeks that ended Mar. 10 versus last year, according to Circana.

In the on-premise, Miller Lite was up 11% in dollar sales in 2023, according to Nielsen.

Molson Coors expects its core brands, including Miller Lite, to gain a sizable amount of shelf space in the upcoming spring resets, and its new lineup of All Stars will work to stop shoppers in their tracks, with eye-catching displays.

Bringing back VHS 

To honor the heyday of the “Tastes Great, Less Filling” ads, Miller Lite is launching a “double feature” on VHS, the classic video format of the ’80s and ‘90s.

For those who still have a working VHS player somewhere in the attic, one of the tapes includes a video program debating whether “great taste” or “less filling” is more important. But even if you trashed it long ago, the other tape is actually a drinking glass styled to look like a VHS tape. 

Getting hold of the double feature requires a throwback mindset, too: On March 28, the first 50 legal-age consumers who show up at the last Blockbuster Video store, located in Bend, Ore., can pick one up for free. For those who can’t make the trek out to the Northwest, a limited number will be available to legal-age consumers who send in pictures of their VHS player. The sweepstakes runs through April 1.

Accelerating the brand

According to Legan, the campaign is about bringing Miller Lite into the moments that matter for consumers. Sports are obviously a huge passion point, and the brand will have premiere media placements during the college basketball tournament, along with during many professional basketball, baseball and football games.

The campaign will also feature a Spanish language version, featuring David Ortiz and Jorge Posada in a baseball locker room debating “gran sabor, llena menos.”

“The original campaign is a classic, and these are fresh stories that stay true to the ‘great taste, less filling’ debate. We’re looking forward to a new generation of Miller Lite consumers continuing the debate,” Legan says.