Recently the New York Times had an article about craft brewers trying to create new craft version of light beer. This is a bit like trying to square a circle since low calorie beers are generally also low in taste and represent the largest selling beer in macro brewers product lineup.
Here is an excerpt from Brewing Battles about Miller’s creation of lite beer.
Following the purchase of Meister Brau, Miller began working on its own low calorie beer. In 1975 Miller unveiled Miller Lite and made history. John Murphy, the McCann Erickson advertising company, and Miller Brewing, using the resources of Phillip Morris, unleashed an advertising campaign on an unprecedented level for the brewing industry. With their clever, sports-driven television commercials, Miller created a new product and greatly accelerated the consolidation of the brewing industry. Miller expended vast sums to market and promote Miller Lite which eventually prodded Anheuser–Busch to develop its own light beer, Bud Light, and match Miller’s advertising spending. Ultimately most of the country’s other brewers could not keep up. Miller steadily and rapidly gained market share, not at the expense of Anheuser–Busch but by incapacitating Pabst, Schlitz, and others.
Miller wanted people who liked sports to drink Miller Lite; the company’s advertising used sports heroes to drive home the point that men drank the new beer. Matt Snell, a New York Jet who had played in Super Bowl III in 1969 when the Jets beat the favorite, the Baltimore Colts, was in the first Miller Lite commercial. This first ad was not funny and used the tag line “new lite beer from Miller is all you ever wanted in a beer and less.” The focus was on carbohydrates; eventually “less filling” became the key message.
The second commercial was with Mickey Spillane, the crime writer, and Lee Meredith, a Playboy Bunny of 1973. Meredith was “the doll” in the commercials that tried to be funny about athletes and their unsuccessful flirting with a beautiful woman. The appearance of the athletes in the commercial legitimated the masculinity of drinking Miller Lite and indicated that the market for sports was nationalizing as was the market for beer.
The final tagline for the commercials became “Lite Beer from Miller. Everything you wanted in a beer . . . and less.” Many of the spots featured athletes and other figures debating between “tastes great” and “less filling.” It took Anheuser–Busch over a year to respond. The company essentially copied Miller’s advertising strategy and lured away several of the athletes including Mickey Mantle. Ironically, Mantle would die in 1995 following a liver transplant that was necessary due to advanced alcoholism and cirrhosis of the liver.
Figure 20: Lite Point of Sale, 1976. Photo courtesy of Miller Brewing Company Archives.
 “150 years of Miller beer”; Frank Deford, Lite Reading: The Lite Beer From Miller Commercial Scrapbook (New York: Penguin Books, 1984), 30.
 Deford, Lite Reading, 31.
 Ibid., 34, 43, 49.
 Joseph Durso, “Mickey Mantle, Great Yankee Slugger, Dies at 63,” New York Times, August 14, 1995, A1.