Bud Light sales are stuck in a rut. Despite the enormous popularity of the “Dilly Dilly” campaign, the nation’s biggest beer brand suffered its largest annual volume decline ever in 2017, dropping 5.7 percent, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights. Some beer distributors have begun to cut back on promoting Bud Light as sales continue to decline, according to The Wall Street Journal.
One of Bud Light’s highest-profile marketing assets is its sponsorship of the NFL. In 2015, Anheuser-Busch InBev paid $1.4 billion to make Bud Light the official beer of the NFL through the Super Bowl in 2022.
Bud Light’s team logo cans have been popular with NFL fans. (The 2018–19 cans were released the week of Aug. 13 and featured a Snapchat integration.) After a few years in the spotlight, team cans are starting to feel like old news.
What can Bud Light do to generate some fresh buzz as the NFL season kicks off?
One win is Cleveland’s Super Bowl.
Bud Light is giving away free beer in Cleveland—but only if the Browns win.
The Cleveland Browns have been the worst team in the NFL over the last two seasons—winning only one game. Any victory will be a big deal to long-suffering Browns fans.
To make a potential win a little sweeter, Bud Light installed “Victory Fridges” in 10 Cleveland-area bars and FirstEnergy Stadium. The fridges will unlock simultaneously, via Wi-Fi, when the Browns triumph, allowing fans to celebrate with 200 free beers per venue.
The fridges were an immediate hit with NFL fans across the country and generated coverage from websites as wide ranging as BroBible to Fortune. Browns fans embraced the idea and shared their love on social media, prompting #VictoryFridge to start trending in Cleveland.
Bud Light generated more exposure by working directly with the Browns who promoted the fridges on social media with fan-friendly posts like “You’ve stood by us through it all. We love you for it, and so does @budlight.”
And the biggest wave of buzz is still to come.
“When they win, and those Victory Fridges open up, there will be wonderful mayhem,” Ideasicle.com CEO and Cleveland native Will Burns wrote in Fortune. “Zillions of pictures will be taken in bars and the stadium of branded fridges and happy Cleveland fans pounding Bud Light. Social media will be ablaze with these photos giving Bud Light a flurry of more free media.”
What they said:
“We’re proud to show our support for Cleveland,” Bud Light Vice President of Marketing Andy Goeler said in a statement. “We’re always looking to bring NFL fans and friends together for memorable experiences. It’s going to be a fun part of the celebration when the team earns their first victory of the season.”
Lessons to be learned:
- Create a narrative. — The Browns may not be in the playoff picture this year, but the Victory Fridge gives fans a simple storyline to follow. The fridges will create tension in bars and the stadium. Can you imagine the hysteria if the first win comes on a last-minute field goal? Narratives stick in the mind of the consumer long after the campaign has faded away.
- Embrace the losers. — Sports has a long history of celebrating winners. (Right, Eagles fans?) The Victory Fridge takes a different spin on this by celebrating ONE victory. This is a victory for the little guy. For the team that never wins. It associates Bud Light with the joy of winning—even if it’s just for one Sunday.
- Let real things drive social.— Consumers want authenticity. As we pointed out with Marvel’s “Group Hug,” many major brands have embraced creating unique events and products in the real world with the goal of driving social media discussion. Bud Light is no stranger to this strategy, either. (Remember the light-up beer glasses from 2017?) The Victory Fridge plays off the real sense of hope all fans have at the start of the season. And, yes, lots of people have already made the joke about the beer being good for next season.