It was about a year ago when the opening games of the World Cup kicked off in Johannesburg, South Africa, and seven-time “Official Beer,” Budweiser, debuted a global marketing campaign of unprecedented scale.
At the center of the campaign was “Bud United: Bud House,” where 16 men and 16 women, each representing one country’s team, eat, slept, partied and watched every match for one month in frat-style living quarters. The daily lives of the 32 were filmed and turned into an online reality show where six to eight episodes aired each day on the “Bud United” YouTube channel drawing more than 4 million channel views, Jorge Inda Meza, global director of marketing for Budweiser, said.
In the shows, Bud was branded in a “natural context” as part of the filming: for example, one fan can be seen holding a Bud while watching the game, others drink Bud during a celebration of a team’s win.
As the games progressed and teams were eliminated, so too were each of the corresponding fans in the house. The last one left earned the honor of presenting the Man of the Match trophy, also sponsored by Bud, to the final games’ most valuable player. TV spots ran in 20 countries and rich media and digital elements played out across social media and other content sites. The reality show sparked a huge upswing in conversations on Bud’s Facebook page.
“It united people around the world in international camaraderie,” Meza said. “It was like an international party.”
To discover the 32 fans, a casting call went out in March 2010 asking those interested to submit details about themselves along with a video showing why there were passionate about the game of football (soccer to us Americans). Between 3,000 and 4,000 applications were submitted, Meza said.
Now a similar casting call can be heard pinging around the world for Bud’s latest iteration of “Bud United” called “Bud United: The Big Time.” This time, the brand will offer fans unprecedented access to participate in very active ways in the sponsorships of its various entertainment, lifestyle and sports properties, from professional racing to pitching for a professional baseball team to walking the catwalk alongside legendary supermodels. The idea is to give Bud fans a chance to live out a dream.
“We didn’t have the World Cup, but we have access to lots of sports and entertainment relationships,” Meza said. “We will leverage those relationships and we’ll get celebrity mentors and professional players to coach and help these consumers and follow their journeys in the form of a reality show to conclusion.”
People submit applications for about six disciplines including basketball, baseball, racing, soccer and cooking. Each episode will focus on a different Big Time dream, such as becoming a racecar driver with the help of Kevin Harvick or taking to the kitchen of an award-winning Las Vegas restaurant with the help of celebrity chef Hubert Keller.
At least six one-hour episodes will be filmed and produced as online reality shows for the “Bud United” YouTube channel and Facebook. In a move that would greatly increase exposure for the brand, discussions are underway to broadcast the reality shows on TV networks in the U.S., Meza said.
“Consumers want to understand what’s behind being a racecar driver or professional baseball player and we’re going to give them a peek behind the scenes on all those assets,” he said. “Giving that value to consumer allows them to see Bud in a very positive light.”
The shows will be produced over the period of one week each by six-time Emmy Award winner and co-executive producer of “The Amazing Race,” Evan Weinstein, and help from a creative team led by @radical.media. Participants will be put through a number of challenges and other tests. FremantleMedia Enterprises will distribute the shows globally. The budget, Meza said, is in line with “what a great show that people want to watch should be.” Bud and its agencies, with the understanding that its consumers spend a lot of time on social media, have shifted its focus very much into social media and mobile.
Bud branding will again be integrated in a natural context. For example, in an episode around Major League Baseball, Bud signage will appear as it does at the stadium or in racing the Bud 29 car will be integrated.
“It will be very organic, the way the brand appears naturally,” Meza said. “This is content that people want to watch because it allows them to see the brand in a different light and get closer to it and consider it more for the future.”
Meza said the brand team was so encouraged by the success of “Bud House” that “The Big Time” seemed a natural extension.
“We saw last year throughout the World Cup activation more beer sales generally across the world, and a bigger lift than our competitors did during that period,” Meza said.
The casting call, through June 29th on Facebook and Renren, China’s social network, is being marketed heavily through Bud’s Facebook pages across the globe, which account for more than 2.2 million fans. The brand is counting on a big viral spread to help move the message about the promotion and the conversations that follows around the globe. Some radio, print and P-O-P materials will also support the casting call in international markets.
“We are casting a huge net to get people engaged in this program,” he said.