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Volume 23 No. 13
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Bud Light offers case study in approach to viral moments

Jeff Adams became an unintentional celebrity for Bud Light after deflecting a home run ball during the World Series with his body while holding cans of beer.
Photo: Getty Images
Jeff Adams became an unintentional celebrity for Bud Light after deflecting a home run ball during the World Series with his body while holding cans of beer.
Photo: Getty Images
Jeff Adams became an unintentional celebrity for Bud Light after deflecting a home run ball during the World Series with his body while holding cans of beer.
Photo: Getty Images

On Oct. 27, Lindsay Cozen, digital brand manager for Bud Light, was sitting at home in New York watching the Packers play the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football when she received a text message from a marketing team colleague with a video of a moment from that night’s World Series game that was spreading virally on social media.

 

A Washington Nationals fan with a Bud Light in each hand had blocked a home run ball from Houston Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez with his chest, and suddenly the race was on to capitalize on an unexpected opportunity.

“We had a gut feeling just from seeing it that we knew this was going to be big, and we couldn’t let it go unanswered on our end,” Cozen said. “We know that if we get a text like that, we are ready to spring into action.”

Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter

Minutes later, Bud Light tweeted a call to action — “This man is a hero” — and a request that the Twitter-verse help identify him so he could be rewarded. After a Washington television station interviewed the fan and alerted Bud Light, the concept began to take shape for an ad that would capture a viral moment. Less than 48 hours later, Bud Light had indeed turned Jeff Adams into a momentary cultural legend by flying him to Houston for Game 6 and airing a 15-second ad during the game. The brand later made another ad congratulating Adams on the team’s championship and made a T-shirt immortalizing his grab that read “Always Save The Beers.”

The Bud Light example illustrates how critical it is for brands to remain nimble and able to implement a creative strategy quickly in the age of social media. Brands need to become part of the real-time conversation that fans are having, said Whitney Wagoner, director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, and do it in a natural fashion. 

“You have to be authentic and relevant in the moment, and you can’t force it if it doesn’t exist authentically,”  Wagoner said. “They didn’t have to force it. They just amplified it in a really relevant way — how their brand was already part of the moment. You’ve got to get the tone right.”

Brands have increasingly used social media moments and relevant news issues in ads, including Nike weaving the equal pay issue for female soccer players into the ad that aired immediately after the United States won the Women’s World Cup last summer. But perhaps the most effective was just a tweet — not a commercial — from Oreo [“You can still dunk in the dark”] during Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 that memorably featured a massive power outage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Cozen said Bud Light’s creative agency, Wieden+Kennedy, came up with the line “Not all heroes wear capes. Or gloves.” for the World Series home-run ad. Bud Light takes pride in its nimbleness to jump on social moments — the “Philly Philly” Philadelphia Eagles’ ad is one example — and aims to project a fun, lighthearted tone. By all accounts, the World Series ad was pitch perfect. 

“For us, it’s really about being a part of culture and having a relevant role in something that [fans] are already excited about and care about,” Cozen said. “People recognizing that we were able to celebrate with them and be the brand to bring that fun is really awesome on our end.”