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Bud Light Golden Wheat Commercials Buy Out All "Saturday Night Live" Advertising

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MILWAUKEE — Anheuser-Busch is buying all the national ads on this week's edition of comedy mainstay "Saturday Night Live" to launch its new brew, Bud Light Golden Wheat.

The brewer – part of Anheuser-Busch InBev – and NBC Universal announced the sponsorship deal Thursday. This Saturday's episode will mark the first time in the 35 seasons of "Saturday Night Live" that one advertiser has bought all of the national ads for the show.

Both Anheuser-Busch and NBC declined to say what the sponsorship, which includes airing 11 commercials, will cost. The sponsorship will mean an additional 6 to 7 minutes of extra show time, NBC said.

St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch released its wheat-flavored version of best-selling Bud Light last week and has been using music and entertainment to promote the brand. It's also sponsoring the musical segment on ABC talk show "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and a room on NBC's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" where guests relax before going on.

The "SNL" sponsorship also includes a segment called "Backstage with Bud Light Golden Wheat" that will show never-before-aired clips from "SNL" through the years. The show will also air highlights from viewing parties on Saturday night hosted by the beer across the country.

The effort is part of a big push by Anheuser-Busch to promote the beer, another extension of Bud Light after last year's successful launch of Bud Light Lime. The company is banking on the success of top-selling Bud Light to sell different versions of the beer, which typically command a higher price. Beer sales have been flat this year as consumers cut back on their trips out to bars and limit spending.

Anheuser-Busch wanted to promote the new beer – released nationally Oct. 5 – in a big way, and saw the "SNL" opportunity as the best way to do it, said Keith Levy, vice president of marketing. Combining the sponsorship with the show helps make sure consumers see the advertising, even if they fast-forward through commercials.

"If you can find ways to just get beyond the advertising, there's a good chance they'll see it," he said.

NBC is working with advertisers who want more creative ways to reach consumers, said Marianne Gambelli, President of NBC Universal Network Ad Sales. Consumers are limiting their spending in the recession, and advertisers are doing the same as their sales fall.

The network has done sponsorships or limited-commercial episodes before, say for season launches of shows like "Heroes." The integration has to be seamless, she said. If it comes off as a commercial, consumers won't buy it.

"You want something authentic," she said. "You want it to look original. You don't want it to look like you're selling something."