Budweiser is sending sports fans to their own bubble

The return of the four major sports leagues gives the beer brand a chance to build on a sports strategy that rewards passion.

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With NBA and NHL players currently living in bubbles to safely finish their seasons, Budweiser is creating a bubble for sports fans, an effort to capitalize on pent-up excitement for sports and an increasingly important at-home viewing occasion.

In the “Budweiser Bubble” contest, four groups – each made up of one winner and three of their “buds” – will go on a week-long paid vacation to a house in Caledon East, Ontario.  There, they’ll be able to watch sports, enjoy meals cooked by a personal chef, exercise in a private gym, receive sports swag and a total of $5,000 to split between the group.

Applicants enter by creating a video introducing themselves, their buds and why they deserve this sports-watching vacation to social media.

Rewarding and paying fans to watch sports is a concept Budweiser introduced in last year’s “Chief Hockey Officer” campaign, in which contestants proved their worthiness to get paid $50,000 to watch hockey through a job application. Like that campaign, Anomaly has created a spot featuring former NHLer Paul Bissonnette breaking down the enticing offer in simple terms: “We want to pay you to take a vacation to watch sports.”

“We have a very consistent and strong sports strategy where we want to celebrate getting you and your friends together to watch the game,” says Mike D’Agostini, marketing director at Budweiser Canada. That idea had also been used to drive emotional relevance for its “Red Light” efforts. But this more recent sports strategy has turned it into a more direct, enticing and engaging offer.

“We want to create ideas that consumers care about and have passion to engage with, because you’ve got to break through the clutter of everything from entertainment and other brands,” D’Agostini says. “Creating something that makes consumers feel like they should take the time out of their day to contribute to means you’re actually breaking through in a meaningful way. Putting the consumer first in everything we do ensures that we’re delivering marketing that’s not just wallpaper.”

Sports has always been a priority for Budweiser, being the official beer of the NHL, NFL and Toronto Blue Jays, on top of sponsorships of many other teams across North America. And, according to research from Kantar, Budweiser drinkers are more likely to be interested in sports compared to the average Canadian beer drinker – 92% versus 86%, respectively. When hockey returned, Budweiser was ready to get back into the mix, airing live concerts and “#OneTeam” tributes during broadcasts.

D’Agostini says the bubble is a “once-in-a-lifetime” sports-viewing experience for fans. Not only is there pent-up excitement after play was suspended for months, all four major sports leagues are now playing at the same time, something that, in a typical year, only happens briefly in October with the tail-end of the World Series. Aside from the major team sport leagues, the WNBA, MLS and English Premier League are all also currently playing, alongside major tennis and golf events.

With sports bars, restaurants and arenas remaining closed, D’Agostini describes the at-home sports-watching occasion as a “massive opportunity” to begin to make up some of that lost business, an opportunity that is made bigger by the sheer selection of sports available. By creating that positive connection with consumers – both through the social media application process, and through the bubble itself and the perks it offers – the brand aims to further drive brand affinity so that when consumers go to the store shelves, they’ll select Budweiser.

“When you’re making that tough decision at the shelf, the brands that you love more will be the brands that you choose,” D’Agostini says. “It’s probably less consumption, but it’s more about winning the war at shelf.”

The contest will be promoted with paid social and digital ads in a media buy handled by Vizeum.