- Anheuser-Busch-owned Michelob Ultra has unveiled specialty tap handles featuring miniature, smiling busts of Peyton Manning, per an announcement emailed to Marketing Dive.
- Ahead of this weekend's Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement, of which Manning is an inductee, Michelob Ultra is hoping to show the athlete's lighter side through its smiling bust tap handles, which will be displayed in bars in New Orleans, Knoxville and Indianapolis. The brewer will also give out a select number to fans who comment on its social post with their favorite memories of Manning, beginning August 6.
- The campaign, a collaboration with Wieden+Kennedy New York, sees Michelob Ultra framing its marketing around familiar notions of wellness while also hoping to draw on interest in a notable sporting event.
Michelob Ultra's goofy tap handles channel the lighter side of competitive sports, a theme which the brewer has previously promoted in its messaging. Inspired by the traditionally stoic expressions displayed by busts in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Michelob Ultra has created a miniature, smiling bust for Peyton Manning, a 2021 inductee, that doubles as a tap handle. The effort seeks to demonstrate the happiness Manning has shown on and off the field, which ties into Michelob Ultra's slogan "It's only worth it if you enjoy it."
The tap handles will be distributed to bars in New Orleans, Knoxville and Indianapolis — each a city to which Manning has a special tie (his hometown, his college town and the town in which he played most of his professional career, respectively). Manning is a beloved figure in these cities, which were specifically chosen in order to maximize enjoyment of the tap handles, per the release. A video showing the creation of the tap handles was also released as part of the campaign.
The tie-up's social element could help to widen Michelob Ultra's reach. Fans are encouraged to comment on the brand's social post with their favorite memories of Manning, which could create a viral effect if enough contributions get the topic trending. To further entice participation on social media, the brewer is giving away a handful of the tap handles to fans who leave comments. Quirky merchandise is an effective way to build stronger relationships with consumers, and is a pre-pandemic strategy that is increasingly being revived by alcohol and other CPG brands, including Absolut, Miller Lite and Axe.
By marketing around the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies, Michelob Ultra could potentially tap into interest in the event to help drive its campaign. The Hall of Fame enshrinement is a televised program that includes new member inductions and a highly anticipated exhibition game — called the Hall of Fame Game — between two NFL teams. This year carries extra significance, as the centennial class of 2020 will also be inducted as a result of last year's ceremonies being canceled due to the pandemic.
The brewer has previously leveraged athletes to draw from interest in notable sporting occasions without explicitly marketing the event. Ahead of this year's Tokyo Olympics, the brewer teamed up with Usain Bolt to help pay for fans' post-workout beers. By featuring a figure synonymous with the Olympics, Michelob Ultra was able to appeal to fans anticipating the games but without having to advertise through NBCUniversal, which could require expensive costs. For this year's Olympics in particular, which have seen lower interest from viewers amid the continued threat of COVID-19, marketing around the games without officially buying ads could have been even more appealing.