D.C. resident Jeff Adams heard Bud Light was looking for him. Just hours earlier at Game 5 of the World Series, he held on to two tall cans of beer as a home run ball smacked him in the chest. The moment Sunday night was caught on live TV and went viral. But it took a while for Adams, who’s not on social media, to find out. Eventually, someone told him.
On Monday morning, Adams called a Bud Light call center and an on-the-ball customer service representative took down his phone number. By the following night, Adams was an internet hero and Bud Light was sending him to Houston to see his beloved Washington Nationals win the World Series.
Bud Light gave News4 a behind-the-scenes look at how they found the “beer guy” and made him the star of a nationally televised ad within 48 hours.
Marketing experts say the “beer guy” moment is worth an estimated $8 million in exposure for the brand and that we can expect to see more ads that seize on what they called viral events.
How Bud Light Capitalized on the ‘Beer Guy’ Moment
A Bud Light staffer was watching Game 5 when they saw Adams, who was standing under a Budweiser sign, grip a beer can in each hand as the ball walloped him. The staffer used WhatsApp to message the marketing team.
“We had a feeling right away that this would be something big,” digital marketing manager Lindsay Cozen said Thursday. “Our priority was to have something out immediately.”
Minutes later, a tweet appeared on Bud Light’s account. “This man is a hero. Twitter please figure out who this guy is so we can reward him. #WorldSeries,” it said, with a four-second gif of the moment.
Next, they knew they had to identify the fan, find him and design a T-shirt showing him. The shirt design was done in an hour. But they still needed to track down the man. As Sunday turned into Monday, they still hadn’t connected with him.
On Monday morning, Adams reached out to the call center. He was stunned by the response to his moment at the game.
“He was just blown away,” Cozen said. “He was still grappling with how he’d become a viral sensation overnight.”
By Monday night, Bud Light had arranged for Adams and a friend to fly to Houston to attend Game 6 on Tuesday night. While they were there, the beer company ran a 15-second ad on TV showing Adams hold on to the beers. “Not all heroes wear capes. Or gloves,” it said.
The Viral Moment Is a ‘Marketer’s Dream’
Advertising opportunities like the “beer guy” moment are rare, New York marketing consultant Ann Fishman said. People of all ages had a genuine response to the “interactive, authentic, honest moment” and flocked to social media to talk about it. By the time the Nats won the World Series, tens of thousands of people had retweeted Bud Light’s video.
“You don’t create these moments; you capitalize on them,” she said.
Bud Light’s tweet asking for help finding Adams was especially appealing to millennials, who as a group tend to appreciate the call to interact, said Fishman. She specializes in how advertisers can meet generational differences. For members of Generation X, the authenticity of Bud Light’s tweets was appealing, Fishman said.
We can think of what happened to the “beer guy” as a viral event, Michigan marketing consultant Eric Smallwood said. These kinds of moments are a “marketer’s dream,” he said.
“It allowed Bud Light to become part of the conversation,” he said.
Bud Light’s tweets and ad were so effective because they generated word of mouth, said Jonah Berger, of Philadelphia. He wrote the New York Times bestseller “Contagious: Why Things Catch On.”
“Today the currency is shares,” he said.
How Much the Exposure for Bud Light May Be Worth
Smallwood estimated that Bud Light got more than $8 million in exposure from the “beer guy” moment and everything the company did next. He calculated what it would cost for Bud Light to generate an equivalent amount of attention online, on TV, in newsprint and on the radio.
Cozen, of Bud Light, said, "It's tough to really put a price" on the "organic" attention the moment got.
Bud Light declined to say whether Adams, who did not respond to inquiries, was paid for the use of his likeness online or in the ad. Cozen said they treated him and a guest to tickets to Game 6 and Game 7 and covered their expenses.
“He had an awesome time there,” she said.
Marketing analysts said you should expect to see more ads that seize on viral events.
“Brands that succeed understand how these moments work and leverage them effectively,” Berger, the author, said.
Bud Light did three things right in their response to the “beer guy” moment, according to Ontario marketing consultant Glenn Cressman. He specializes in marketing trends on social media.
First, Bud Light noticed their brand was featured in a big cultural moment, he said. Second, they acted fast and asked Twitter to find the Nats fan. Third, they created a simple ad.
“That nimbleness is really impressive,” Cressman said.
Bud Light said they have a “social listening” team that monitors online conversations about the brand.
Ads that show viral events will have more of an impact than those that use social media influencers, Fishman, the New York marketing consultant, predicted. The public wants reality, not manufactured reality, she said.
She expected that, like the "beer guy," we’ll see additional unexpected figures in ads.
“Your influencer is not someone who you thought your influencer was,” she said.