- Stella Artois is hosting a virtual chess challenge with grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura on June 1, the AB InBev beer brand said in a press release. The tie-up will feature Nakamura attempting to break an online record in bullet chess — in which players each have a minute to play a full game — as well as branded prize giveaways.
- The Bullet Chess Speedrun will seek to break the Chess.com record for most unique bullet chess victories in an hour. Players who wish to compete against Nakamura will sign up via Stella Artois's website, and the games will all be streamed on Nakamura's Twitch channel. The beer brand is also rewarding limited-edition Stella Artois chess boards and chalices to spectators who comment in the Twitch chat, after which it will release the collection for purchase on ShopBeerGear.com, Anheuser-Busch's e-commerce site for merchandise.
- The unlikely partnership sees the AB InBev brand leveraging a sport that has experienced a recent surge in popularity, as well as activating the Twitch gaming platform in order to appeal to younger consumers.
Stella Artois's new campaign is an effort to capitalize on the cultural relevance of chess, which has seen a lift in popularity over the course of the pandemic. As people were stuck at home, many chose online gaming as a new pastime, including chess, whose main online platform Chess.com experienced its largest annual growth since its launch in 2007. In October, the Netflix original show "The Queen's Gambit" further fueled interest in the game, and its record-breaking viewer rates and successful awards season performance elevated chess into a cultural phenomenon. Now Stella Artois is seeking to benefit from the trend by launching a marketing effort designed to appeal to chess fans and players alike.
Twitch is another cultural sensation that Stella Artois is activating with this campaign. In the first quarter of 2021, the gaming platform accounted for 72% of all hours watched in the video game streaming market, and for industries from food to cosmetics, such market power translates to an opportunity to reach the young consumers who are traditionally the most active gaming demographic .
Bolstering its Twitch activation is the beer brand's partnership with Nakamura, the second-ranked chess player in the world and one of the game's most prominent influencers. With 1.2 million followers on his channel and videos that consistently rack up hundreds of thousands of views, Nakamura is considered the player who popularized chess streaming , making the partnership a strong bet by Stella Artois to maximize its reach into the online chess community.
By offering a collection of branded chess merchandise on ShopBeerGear.com, Stella Artois is able to leverage a digital marketing campaign to drive fans to an Anheuser-Busch site where valuable first-party customer data can be gathered, something more brands are doing as Google, Apple and others limit access to third-party data.
Other aspects of Bullet Chess Speedrun, such as branded giveaways and its focus on breaking a record, could deepen the beer brand's engagement beyond mere sponsorship. These efforts reflect a push for consumer connection that Stella has emphasized through recent campaigns. In February, the brand launched a campaign asking consumers to "invest their heartbeats" in social occasions, which debuted during the Super Bowl, and the next month it provided a mock financial service which urged consumers to invest time in themselves during tax season.