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Yesterday, Budweiser released a video on YouTube of two amateur hockey teams surprised with pro treatment as screaming fans, cheerleaders and mascots attended their pick up game. This two minute spot is the extended version of their new ad premiering in Canada during the Super Bowl.
Compared to the other Super Bowl ad promos bouncing around the internet, this one seemingly created an emotional connection with consumers that the other more gimmicky and "clever" ads, aren't delivering. But is this just another tired use of flash mobs in advertising?
Budweiser's marketing manager, Ben Seaton, says no.
"I'm not concerned that it will be labelled as another flash mob. That's not why we made it and that's not what it is. It's not the theme that makes it relatable and relevant. It's the fact that it is so touching and it's a great story."
As flash mobs are mainly considered the thing of the past, why this approach? According to Seaton, Budweiser are big fans of hockey and part of its marketing strategy is to help provide more excitement and give more guys the opportunity to experience the game. The team behind the ad asked themselves how they could go and honour those guys who dedicate their lives to recreational hockey and give them an experience they'll never forget. This is the result:
Ameer Khan was one of the players on the ice.
Some guy shows up to watch one of our regular League games and later calls our team rep to say they would like to do a documentary about beer league hockey and if we would be interested in playing an exhibition game. So we show up at Port Credit Arena still not sure what's going on. The producer says just play and enjoy the game.
After the 1st period we notice the Budweiser Zamboni. Then by the 2nd period there are mascots, play by play announcers and 500 screaming fans wearing our jerseys. The noise was insane, couldn’t even hear the ref's whistle.
Rhys Howell, who saw the video as it made its rounds yesterday, said: "When I first saw the Budweiser video I was choked up because I instantly thought about how awesome those guys must have felt. How awesome would I have felt if I was on that rink when it happened? I guess that's what Budweiser want me to think and they want me to love Budweiser for changing my life if only for a moment."
"One of the powers of this spot is that everyone dreams about playing in front of fans," comments Seaton. “So this has legs around the world. We've left it to the consumer and it is travelling quite well. We will drive traffic to see it during the Super Bowl and then put out new content, including a four minute behind the scene piece, every two or three days. The campaign will be supported through Facebook, Twitter and traditional digital marketing."
Though there is growing attention around this video (which is at nearly half a million views in less than two days), not everyone is convinced of this approach. Leigh Caldwell of Inon states:
If they'd done it eight years ago it would have been original, heart-warming and surprising. We'd have watched it over and over on that new "YouTube" thing and emailed it to our friends on AIM. In 2012, it's trite, obvious and more likely to lead to a bunch of quickly-edited parodies on YouTube than to any genuine affection. Anyone who doesn't already love hockey isn't going to be swept up in a magical storm of teary manly joy by this fluff.
Howell isn't convinced he will change his mind about the brand but believes by sharing the video, "some people could be converted to the Bud side and really that's all that was required of me."
For Khan, being a part of this moment will become a central part of his own story. "Budweiser has made an emotional connection with me that will last a lifetime. Everyone on twitter is saying it brought them to tears and cheers. From now on every Budweiser I have will have a story."
This is exactly what Seaton and the Budweiser team were hoping for. "I would love if every person who watched it would feel the same way. We created a bond with those guys on the ice. Hopefully, their story has created the bond with the consumer. If that's what they take away, it's a positive view of the brand. And that's all that we wanted."
Budweiser has never seen the type of media and consumer interest as they’ve had so far through this video. Internally this is already being touted as best practice for them and they credit the story, rather than the delivery.
The big question is did it work for you? Do you think marketers need to focus more on the story in their campaigns? Or was this execution better left for the 2009 marketing vaults?