With all U.S. adults eligible for vaccines and some consumers ready to resume pre-pandemic activities, Bud Light today unveils its Bud Light Summer Stimmy, a tongue-in-cheek stimulus proposal that will dole out $10 million in prizes and experiences this summer.
The proposal, a 100-plus-page document designed to look like legislation, includes — along with jokes, diagrams and hidden prizes — details about items the brand is giving away, including 100,000 passes to sporting events, tickets to concerts at local amphitheaters and a first round of Bud Light as consumers return to bars.
It parodies the $1.9 trillion stimulus that President Biden signed into law in March, and brings a lighthearted, humorous tone to marketing at a time when the country seems poised to return to pre-pandemic normalcy after a tumultuous year. And while consumers flocked to legacy brews like Bud Light early in the pandemic, the health crisis overall has affected the brand's ability to market itself, per Bud Light's Vice President of Marketing Andy Goeler.
"It's been a challenge, obviously, through this whole COVID period. So much of our brand is about bringing the fun, getting people together and sociability. So now that we're starting to come out of it, we decided that ... it's kind of our responsibility to bring the fun back," the AB InBev veteran said.
To help promote the campaign, Bud Light tapped NFL star Rob Gronkowski as the Bud Light Secretary of Summer and hired comic actor Sam Richardson ("Veep") to act as Chief Bud Light Summer Stimmy Bill Reader in a series of new spots fashioned to look like C-SPAN coverage. Extending the faux legislative process, the brand will promote the proposal on TV and social for a week, asking fans to "endorse" it before it is "approved."
Even while offering a variety of benefits to consumers, Bud Light parodying a politically charged topic like the stimulus could be seen as risky, especially as the country continues to be polarized following the presidential election of Joe Biden and January's attack on the Capitol.
"As a brand, obviously, getting involved in politics is something that you're probably best to stay away from, as a consumer product, but this was so positive. That stimulus program that was announced was massive," Goeler explained. "I think our connection is done in a really lighthearted way. But it's a culturally relevant topic, and a positive topic."
For Bud Light and marketers at large, the question of when to return to pre-pandemic tones has been a moving target. Consumers tired of covid-related ads early in the health crisis, but marketing messaging remained fraught as the coronavirus persisted amid other challenges. Sister brand Budweiser recently offered free beer to people who get vaccinated as part of its effort to raise awareness about COVID-19 vaccines.
"Getting involved in politics is something that you're probably best to stay away from, as a consumer product, but this was so positive."
VP of Marketing, Bud Light
"That's obviously the biggest challenge: when do you do this? We're obviously following this quite closely, and we want to make sure we adhere to all the CDC guidelines, but the feeling is that with the vaccine, we're starting to see companies invite people back to offices to work," Goeler said, noting that by late May through July, the brand should be able to distribute the benefits of its stimulus proposal.
Along with its $10 million in prizes and giveaways, the campaign also includes influencer content, with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, esports athlete TimTheTatMan and Instagram meme accounts MiddleClassFancy and Friday Beers presenting their own addendums to the proposal. The influencer outreach and collaboration with Gronkowski and Richardson follow Bud Light's previous tie-ups with pop cultural figures, most notably pop musician Post Malone. Being a part of cultural conversations tops the to-do list for most marketers, and Goeler says Bud Light's cultural moves are intuitive for its marketing team.
"If you don't remain culturally relevant, you become yesterday's news very quickly," he said. "We do the normal things, like social listening, and we have teams that monitor different social conversations in these different areas. But I have to tell you, the real truth with all this data and analysis and all these brilliant people that are helping to guide us: sometimes we just sit around over a beer and talk about Gronk or Post Malone."