Even for the King of Beers it was a tall order: 200 influencers from 20 countries, a hotel takeover and plans to earn one billion impressions amid one of the world’s largest sporting events. Yep, Budweiser went bold for Super Bowl LIV in Miami, producing one of the biggest integrated marketing and influencer-focused programs in AB InBev’s history. Leveraging its BudX platform, which features events that unite the brand’s global creator community and influencer talent, Budweiser delivered the BudX Hotel experience at a 250-room hotel property and waterfront mansion in South Beach, Miami’s cultural hub. Over one billion impressions later, it seems Bud has added some extra sparkle to its crown.
The BudX Hotel (actually, The Nautilus by Arlo) was secured by Budweiser in May, with its aesthetic, infrastructure and central location in South Beach winning over the brand. When it was time to execute the activation, Bud implemented a full-fledged hotel takeover, from basement to penthouse, in addition to occupying the nearby “Bud Mansion” and its ample outdoor space where it built a stage for the weekend. Every inch of the venues was retrofitted to align with BudX’s visual identity, right down to the pillows. Key design elements found in the common areas of the hotel were scaled down and incorporated into each attendee’s room. Also found in each room: The “King’s Guide,” a physical book offering a bio on each influencer to help participants, who hailed from a variety of countries, get to know one another.
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The event program entailed three core components: installations, partnerships and content creation. Larger installations included an antique car located in the hotel lobby, a decked-out merchandise shop and a massive mural that stretched down a central hotel hallway. Strategic partnerships included Miami-based Panther Coffee, which served food and beverages from a booth in the hotel lobby, and Gillette, which set up an in-house barber shop for attendees. And then there was the designated content studio where the influencers could work with professional producers and content editors, or do it themselves, to create real-time video content showcasing the myriad branded environments that had been specifically created for them.
“Our No. 1 goal was generating impressions, and we did that through influencers by offering them the right experience,” says Eelco van der Noll, vp-experiential at Anheuser-Busch InBev. “The longer [term] goal is to embrace those influencers—cultural changers, creators in their own right—and make them feel positive and favorable about our brand, so they will be ambassadors and evangelists going back to their markets. We’ll maintain a relationship with them and the impressions will lead, hopefully, to favorable brand perception and consideration and derive from that an army, if you will, of Budweiser-favorable influencers.”
As you might imagine, the logistics of the program were incredibly complex, particularly because of the stark differences between influencer hospitality and corporate hospitality, according to van der Noll. Whereas corporate clients are laser-focused on the Super Bowl itself, influencers are more interested in the experiences surrounding the event.
“With influencers, it’s an ongoing stimulus, really cool experiences, which happen to take place in Miami, which happen to take place at the Super bowl,” says van der Noll. “Whereas, in a hospitality program for retailers and wholesalers, it’s more about the event that takes place, as opposed to the experiences around the venue and hotel.”
Given influencers’ penchant for curated experiences, the BudX agenda was jam-packed. On the Friday before the big game, Budweiser flew in its 200 “kings of culture,” each boasting more than one million social followers, many of whom came from markets where Budweiser is considered a premium, upscale brand. Following check-in, attendees were whisked away by boat to the Bud Mansion, where De La Soul, and even some of the invited influencers, performed. From there, they were transported by boat or bus to AmericanAirlines Arena for a Guns N’ Roses concert, followed by an afterparty at the BudX Hotel.
On Saturday morning, Bud gave attendees some much needed R&R (hello, jetlag), then commenced programming in the late afternoon. The plan was to activate a variety of pool-themed experiences, but inclement weather forced the brand to pivot and offer other activities before evening programming took off at 6 p.m. with Dwyane Wade’s Masters of the Mic karaoke battle. The contest featured the former Miami Heat legend himself performing, along with a slate of other celebrities, including Ja Rule. Later in the evening, as the rain subsided, attendees were treated to performances by A-list talent including the Black Eyed Peas, Halsey and Diplo.
Sunday was the big day, but ahead of the Super Bowl matchup, influencers attended a football panel featuring the likes of Eli Manning, Ludacris and actor (and diehard Chiefs fan) Rob Riggle, who served as host. Panelists discussed the sport and what it means from different perspectives, giving foreign influencers a quick tutorial on what they were about to see unfold.
Next, Budweiser created a football “tunnel moment” featuring fog machines and bumping music for the influencers as they exited the hotel and hopped on a bus headed to Hard Rock Stadium (with police escorts, no less) for the game. On-site, influencers were set loose to drink in the experience, then attended an afterparty at the hotel.
The entire Bud X Miami program was built around a “publisher mindset,” meaning Budweiser wasn’t building experiences for the sake of building experiences, but rather, telling compelling stories through the lens of its brand. For Super Bowl, Bud leaned into its “Be a King” mantra. The idea was that influencers arrived not knowing anyone, then attended Bud’s events and began to make a name from themselves—by Saturday, they’d each become a “king.”
“It’s very hard to get a consumer’s attention, and the traditional ways of doing that are either not effective or cost-prohibitive,” says van der Noll. “Experiential marketing is a unique opportunity to engage—attendees touch your product, experience it, in a brand environment. And if we think in terms of reach and credibility, that has a much higher impact. And our platforms, such as the Super Bowl, give us a unique opportunity to host those guests against that background.” Agencies: Octagon (experiential, activation management); Deutsch (content strategy); WINK (concept, production); Virtue (influencer management).
Photo courtesy: Ben Houdijk; Noam Galai/Getty Images for Budweiser