Budweiser Salutes America’s Front Line

March 2020

Slashed budgets, working from home, and drastic shifts in strategic priorities; the impact of COVID-19 on marketers – in just a few short weeks – has been profound.

But spare a moment to think about sports fans. Sport has traditionally been the great escape from all of life’s difficulties; an opportunity to teleport yourself to a world where money and health – and pretty much everything else – becomes a distant afterthought.

And that’s what’s making the current events all the more difficult, with the absence of sport having a far-reaching impact on the lives of millions of Americans.

Faced with these unprecedented events, brands need to think creatively about how to maintain dialogue with consumers – albeit ensuring commercial priorities are delicately balanced with an empathetic tone of voice. Over recent weeks we’ve seen extravagant, big-screen productions ditched in favour of topical and heart-felt messages; however, this doesn’t necessarily mean a decline in effectiveness – as proven by Guinness last week.

Budweiser was one of the first brands to adapt its tone of voice in light of the pandemic, producing a low-budget – but deeply touching – montage applauding the efforts of front-line social and healthcare workers. All-in-all the ad took 7 days to produce, with the team working around the clock across multiple time zones to achieve this amazing feat.

But can a simple montage of almost-stills be just as effective as a high-budget cinematic production? We tested the ad amongst beer consumers to find out the answer, using our 3 C’s framework to predict its effectiveness:

  • Captivate: Does it attract and retain attention, and engage in an emotional way?
  • Connect: Is the brand instantly recognisable?
  • Compel: Does it leave people with a lasting impression about the brand?

Captivate

Despite time, budget and logistical constraints, the monochrome spot featuring a mellow backing track was sufficiently distinctive to grab viewers’ attention – even though the montage of images wasn’t the most flashy. Subtly playing homage to a myriad of iconic major league sports teams helped maintain engagement and ensured fans understood this was ‘for them’.

This developed ‘caring’ and ‘inspiring’ associations for Budweiser, striking the perfect tone to align with the brand’s pivot from sport to hosting Blood Drives across America.

While viewers responded in an overwhelmingly positive way, the ‘warmth’ generated by focussing on first responders was the central take-out from the ad, ahead of Budweiser’s long history of sports sponsorship.

Connect

While the beer itself lacked a meaningful role in the ad (unlike Guinness which we applauded for), the adaptation of Budweiser’s long-running ‘Bud for you’ tagline was masterful – ensuring strong attribution despite confusion following the early presence of the Red Cross.

While community support isn’t a widely talked about aspect of Budweiser’s social strategy, establishing it in the context of the brand’s long-running sponsorship of sport meant viewers saw the ad as a seamless fit.

Compel

Backing up its hopeful and optimistic message with charitable action raised viewers’ spirits and generated optimism about the future – helping cement Budweiser as ‘compassionate’ and a ‘leader’, as well as deeply ‘patriotic’.

Despite pared-back production values, viewers found Budweiser’s approach to be genuine and sincere, with few expressing dissatisfaction at any commercialised elements, or getting hung-up on COVID-19. Importantly, the ad successfully differentiated Budweiser from other beer brands, while having a relevant reason to insert the brand into the conversation subsequently invoked considerable social conversation.

Conclusion

Without breaking the bank or shooting new footage, Budweiser was able to successfully develop a highly effective ad that both expanded people’s perceptions of the brand and raised their spirts.

Linking the ad to the real-world work of Budweiser while deploying the brand’s established properties in a clever and relevant way, meant viewers united behind the message – making it one of the most likeable and sharable pieces of content we’ve ever tested.

Budweiser One Team - Advertising Testing - Covid Ad Results

This is a self-funded case study using our Advertising Testing solution.

We were supported by leading market research technology platform Cint to collect data from respondents in the US.

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