Top 10 Innovative Brands 2014: #2 Bud Light

Large-scale events from coast to coast help the light lager stay the top-selling beer brand.

By Beth Kormanik June 17, 2014, 7:05 AM EDT

The brand built a 45,000-square-foot temporary venue, known as the Bud Light District, for this year’s N.B.A. All-Star weekend in New Orleans.

Photo: Juan Ocampo/NBAE

It was an ambitious stunt: staging 50 concerts in 50 states on a single day. But last year Bud Light, working with Live Nation, pulled it off with talent such as Kendrick Lamar, Ludacris, and the Flaming Lips performing for a total crowd of 52,000 people.

Bud Light Music First’s 50/50/1 event also had a significant online component. It attracted 1.5 million unique viewers who each spent more than 13 minutes on the site, as well as 240,000 downloads of the Bud Light app. The company has developed a propriety R.O.I. analysis tool to evaluate the effectiveness of its campaigns, but about 525,000 fans engaged with a Bud Light post on Twitter or Facebook. “In one day, Bud Light managed to reach an audience and build enough buzz that many brands take weeks or even months to amass,” Billboard reported.

The brand holds around five events a year, but the scope of Bud Light’s experiential marketing sets it apart from other beverage brands and helps to keep it the top-selling beer in the United States, moving some 295 million cases in 2013—about 72 million cases more than the combined amount of sales by the next closest brands, Coors Light and Budweiser. Parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev generated revenues of $43.2 billion in 2013.

“The size and scale of the activations Bud Light creates help drive affinity and equity in a very competitive marketplace,” says David Daniels, director of marketing for Bud Light. “We’ve seen that immersive activations have a positive impact on the image of the brand and help create ambassadors for the brand. The strongest way to develop advocates for your brand is to deliver fully immersive experiences.”

Bud Light’s signature activation is the Bud Light Hotel, in which the company rebrands an existing property from the restaurants down to the shampoo in guest rooms. It has been staged at the past five Super Bowls, with each venue taking on the personality of its host city. This year, instead of taking over a hotel, the company converted a Norwegian Cruise Ship on the Hudson River into its headquarters and also created a massive complex of corporate hospitality and consumer entertainment. Elements included a tented Bud Light Hotel Lounge, a concert venue where bands including Foo Fighters and Imagine Dragons performed, and events held at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Online components included having celebrities like N.F.L. legend Warren Sap crash actual Super Bowl parties and instantly posting video to YouTube.

“We’ve supported Bud Light Hotel through full 360 [degree] marketing campaigns in the past, but this year’s support was much more robust,” Daniels says. “The venue, location, and current brand campaign all drove the level of investment to promote the hotel.”

Bud Light was also present at February’s N.B.A. All-Star Game in New Orleans, where the first Bud Light District—a custom 45,000-square-foot pop-up event space—hosted private parties and concerts.

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