Jan. 31, 2017
The Chicago Cubs have finally won the World Series...and so did Budweiser
“We absolutely had to get it right,” John Seiler, Senior Manager, Experiential at Anheuser-Busch InBev, tells me hours after Budweiser’s “Harry Caray’s Last Call” video dropped. The video was released on Facebook and Twitter immediately following the conclusion of the MLB World Series game on Wednesday.
As a born and raised Chicago sports fan, I can tell you, “get it right” is the understatement of the year-maybe the last 108 years. Budweiser absolutely, without a doubt, 100% nailed it. The two minute viral story chronicles the city’s anticipation as the 7th game of the World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs came to a dramatic end with the Northsiders taking home the title. The video is set to the sounds of the legendary Cubs announcer, Harry Caray, announcing a past game with Cleveland. The decision to use Caray’s imagery and voice was an obvious one, Seiler mentions, “the Harry Caray relationship is something so true to the heritage of both our brand and the Cubs' that we didn’t have to think about it long”.
“Essentially we viewed a Cubs World Series as a crucial moment not just in sports but across American culture,” Seiler adds, recognizing not only the high media value of breaking through the post-game brand activity, but also a deep understanding of the emotional connection that fans have to Chicago’s boys in blue.
Admittedly, I’m a bandwagon baseball fan. I love both the north and south side teams in Chicago, and my proclivity to prefer one over the other has more to do with the food and beer spread at the stadium than the players or the game. However, anyone who grew up, or spent their adult life, in Chicago can tell you that none of that really matters. When one of ours is in the ‘ship, whether it be the Super Bowl, NBA Final, Stanley Cup or World Series, the entire city really does come together as one.
The photos and videos you see in the national news are no joke. The city literally swells with fans in all corners and beams with pride, something that Budweiser captured perfectly. As you watch their two minute tribute to the fans, you’ll see beautiful views of the city lit up in red and blue, Cubs jerseys adorning statues across the city, and the crowds of people in all parts of the city waiting to see if our dream is actually coming true.
When I stop gushing over my city and one of our teams for a minute, I think about the importance of strong advertising like this. You will notice in the video that Budweiser branding and products actually take a backseat to the real heroes of the night, the fans. All too often, brands are too focused on their own product and logos to realize that their sports partnerships can achieve a much deeper connection to consumers. Budweiser’s ability to take their massive MLB and Chicago Cubs partnership to an emotional, even a spiritual, level is what we need to see more of in sports partnership marketing.
What most people probably are not aware of as they watch this is the strategic thinking and tactical logistics that went into creating this two minute moment. In partnership with Vayner Media, Budweiser shot the footage, cut/edited the videos together, and set the sound to both vintage Harry Caray and real time announcer tracks from the game on Wednesday. And they did it all during the game in order to post the video right at the games end.
Additionally, instead of creating an over-produced commercial to fill their high priced post game :30 spot (as some other brands did), Budweiser chose to air a 1984 “This Bud’s for You” spot featuring the beloved broadcaster in his prime. The spot aired completely unchanged, giving a classic feel to the entire celebration. The foresight Budweiser had in partnering with Harry Caray all those years back, and bringing him to the spotlight today, shows the brand’s avid dedication to the Chicago Cubs both in the past and for years to come.
I hope that we see more brands take a truly authentic approach to sports partnerships moving forward. As a student of sports marketing, I want to continue to be inspired by global brands, like Budweiser, celebrating the real reason they have these sponsorships to begin with: connecting with the fans.
Until that happens, I’ll probably just watch “Harry Caray’s Last Call” on repeat and cry for the love of Chicago in my delicious, ice cold, Budweiser.