As some brands place an emphasis on the virtual world, Stella Artois, owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, is asking consumers to engage in the real world with a new campaign kicking off on Super Bowl Sunday. With this effort, the beer marketer hopes to engage pandemic-weary consumers as many try to keep up with constantly changing guidelines and adjust to a new normal.
The campaign, "Make Time For The Life Artois," is made up of two parts. In the first push, football players Eli Manning, Ryan Clark and Dan Marino will cover the shifts of three restaurant workers on Super Bowl Sunday. While the players work, the restaurant employees will attend the game with a guest of their choice using tickets provided by the company. The second part of the campaign is an advertisement that encourages people to visit restaurants.
Despite the very real threat the COVID-19 pandemic still poses, a new normal is beginning to emerge as some restrictions ease. After two years of quarantining and shutdowns, bars and restaurants are reopening and large gatherings are becoming more commonplace. However, brands would be amiss to assume consumers are the same as they were before the pandemic. The post-pandemic consumer has different values than the pre-pandemic consumer, and brands have been trying to keep up.
"We're at a point now where you've got real COVID fatigue, and our consumers are, in many instances, saying, 'I want to see hope for the future, and I actually don't need to have brands hold a mirror up to what's going on and show me people wearing masks. I get it, this thing COVID will be around for a while, but give me some hope and do so obviously in a respectable, responsible way,'" said Lauren Denowitz, head of marketing at Stella Artois.
The post-pandemic consumer is less likely to be loyal to any one brand, including beer, according to research by McKinsey and Co. As brands try and anticipate how to entice these consumers, some are banking on NFTs and the metaverse while others like Stella Artois are focused on the physical world. The beer marketer's campaign touches on two points important to the younger post-pandemic consumer. By encouraging responsible, in-person gatherings, the brand addresses people's concerns about what their post-pandemic social lives might look like. In highlighting a cause — namely assisting people working in an industry that's been particularly hard-hit — the brand is trying to meet consumers' desire for brands to support causes in an authentic way.
The "Make Time For The Life Artois'' campaign runs through April and spotlights a key market for the beer brand: the restaurant industry. As nearly 40% of Stella Artois' business is done on-premise, per Denowitz, it makes sense to link Stella Artois with restaurants.
So far during the pandemic, over 110,000 restaurants and bars closed their doors for good and 2.5 million service industry jobs disappeared. While many of those jobs are in the process of coming back, the industry faces a labor shortage, as those who worked in the industry before the pandemic found employment elsewhere and haven't returned. Stella Artois also saw steep declines in the pandemic's early days. In 2020, it experienced a 5% drop in revenue globally, while a report by Anheuser-Busch said Stella Artois' 2019 revenue rose 6.5%.
The Stella Artois substitutes, which is how the brand refers to the work in restaurants by Manning, Clark and Marino, are just one part of the new campaign. On Super Bowl Sunday, the beer brand will air a regional spot in select markets. In the new creative, out Feb. 9, billboards in busy metropolitan areas come to life as people leave work and lead the populace to restaurants, reminding them to seize time with their family and friends. The advertisement ties back into the substitutes, again emphasizing the restaurant industry.
In addition to sending the three restaurant workers to the Super Bowl, Stella Artois is also giving away Super Bowl tickets during a Twitter and Instagram livestream featuring Manning, Clark and Marino.
"It was really important to us with the launch of this campaign and with all of our campaigns that we are enabling, not just being preachy, in terms of [how] we want you to think about our brand, but really helping people live out our brand," Denowitz said. "I think that's why I'm so proud of the Stella substitutes piece. It did enable some of the people who deserve it most and [who] are so important to our business to live the life Artois."