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Most Innovative Brands in Events 2020: Anheuser-Busch

The American brewer aimed to keep the good vibes flowing, while helping to support struggling businesses this past year.

Anheuser-Busch, Movement by Michelob ULTRA
Anheuser-Busch pivoted the in-person wellness series, Movement by Michelob ULTRA, to an online virtual workout and happy hour experience that helped local gyms impacted by COVID-19.
Photo: Courtesy of Anheuser-Busch

The Basics: At the beginning of 2020, American brewer Anheuser-Busch and its brands like Bud Light and Stella Artois were doing business as usual, including popping up at the Super Bowl in Miami. But then the pandemic hit and activating at music festivals and sporting events—which is commonplace for Anheuser-Busch—wasn’t an option.

So in addition to rejiggering its existing event franchises, such as the Bud Light Dive Bar tour, the company created a new one: the Virtual International Beer Festival. Launched in conjunction with International Beer Day in August 2020, the brewer brought its brands—Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob ULTRA, Stella Artois, BON V!V spiked seltzer, and the Brewers Collective craft portfolio—together for an evening filled with beer tastings, brewery tours, live music, cooking tips, and e-commerce promotions on platforms like Drizly, along with an appearance by the Budweiser Clydesdales.

Anheuser-Busch Virtual International Beer Festival 2020Anheuser-Busch's Virtual International Beer Festival featured beer tastings, brewery tours, live music, cooking tips, and more.Photo: Courtesy of Anheuser-BuschLessons Learned in 2020: “Planning for the best is easy; planning for the worst is smart,” says Ronnie Yoked, head of experiential marketing at Anheuser-Busch. “Always have multiple scenarios mapped out since things always inevitably change. And if COVID has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be willing to change, try new things, innovate, and ultimately not be afraid to fail. The human desire and need to experience things will never go away, and we just have to constantly aim to listen to our consumers, be connected to culture, and take risks.”

Bud Light Seltzer Sessions, Brad PaisleyBud Light Seltzer Sessions, a new virtual weekly music series, launched in May 2020 and featured performances from artists such as Brad Paisley.Photo: Courtesy of Anheuser-BuschKey Pivots: The Bud Light Dive Bar—the brand’s mobile music experience that launched in 2016 and typically travels to festivals including SXSW, Firefly, and Governors Ball—first transformed into the Bud Light Dive Bar Tour at Home, then quickly evolved into Bud Light Seltzer Sessions, Yoked explains, turning into “a much more highly produced experience in which we broke the initial U.S. concert livestreaming record for peak concurrent views with over 450,000 views.” Other notable pivots included Movement by Michelob ULTRA Live, which brought workouts and happy hours to people at home while raising money for struggling gym and studio owners, and Stella Artois launched Stella Sessions@Home, which supported the restaurant industry through the National Restaurant Association and James Beard Foundation.

“Thinking through how to translate our brands’ platforms digitally took practice, but we quickly understood what the key pillars for us were: best-in-class viewing/at-home experience, creating an occasion to come together (safely) over some drinks with great entertainment, and thinking through how we can help support our partners and friends via different fundraising initiatives,” Yoked says.

What’s Next: “Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball, but provided we move out of this pandemic in the next year, I think we will have one of the most insane and exciting times for events and experiences,” Yoked predicts. “There are certain things that just can’t be replicated virtually. The vibrational and emotional quality of music isn’t the same virtually as it is in real life. Being stuck shoulder to shoulder, drenched in sweat, drinking a cold beer, and screaming the lyrics to your favorite song while the band plays can’t be replaced.”Anheuser-Busch, Michelob ULTRA Pure Golden Hour Sessions x MalumaPure Golden Hour Sessions x Maluma included a livestream experience as well as a custom merch collaboration with the singer. The program garnered 125,000 peak concurrent views and 16 million total views.Photo: Courtesy of Anheuser-Busch