- Michelob Ultra has partnered with Formula 1 team Williams Racing for a television special where racers will compete in a real-versus-virtual 16-lap race, according to a press release.
- During “Laps of Legends,” one real driver will compete against virtual versions of former Williams Racing pros. The one-hour broadcast will air in the spring of 2024 on AMC, BBC America and The Roku Channel.
- The virtual race was made possible using artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) technology. Drivers featured in the broadcast include Jenson Button, Jacques Villeneuve and Mario Andretti.
Michelob Ultra is looking to broaden its sports appeal through a race between Formula 1 legends that is being realized with an assist from AI. Formula 1 has seen a massive uptick in popularity in the U.S. in recent years thanks to streaming, though some of that interest has been tested by a patchy racing season and controversial events.
Still, there could be opportunities for marketers like Michelob Ultra to reach engaged FI diehards. The Anheuser-Busch InBev brand has long focused on sports to build its consumer base, leading to massive commercial success for the beer. During the NFL opening weekend, Michelob Ultra was the most popular draft beer.
“Laps of Legends” is not the first time the marketer has leveraged AI technology to enable otherwise impossible match-ups between pros past and present. In May 2022, Michelob Ultra claimed to air the world’s first hybrid tennis match, wherein John McEnroe played against versions of himself during different points in his storied career. The activation was made possible using computer simulations and ball return machines.
“We’re once again using technology in service of great storytelling. With ‘Lap of Legends,’ we are delivering Michelob Ultra’s point of view with a unique piece of entertainment that fans will most surely enjoy,” said Ricardo Marques, vice president of marketing for the brand, in a statement.
The TV special comes as parent company AB InBev looks to make up for ground lost due to a lengthy controversy surrounding its most popular offering, Bud Light. The brewing giant saw U.S. revenue decline 13.5% in Q3. During an earnings call, CEO Michel Doukeris discussed the importance of Michelob Ultra in the company’s global performance.