Major League Baseball (MLB) official partner Budweiser is activated the start of the new 2021 season through a multi-channel, multi-phase activation programme which is spearheaded by pop-up stadium experiences and a sweepstakes style competition called #BudPitchYourPitch.
The pop-up stadium experiences are created for baseball fans in New York and Chicago who are unable to attend MLB Opening Day games during the first week of April.
Budweiser’s aim for these pop-up stadium experiences is to evoke the pleasant memories of attending baseball games in person, as the pandemic means that several teams will be reopening without fans in attendance due to state and city legislation.
So the beer brand arranged for ballpark vendors to give away freshly made hot dogs in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighbourhood (the residential area immediately around the Chicago Cubs home stadium) and throughout parts of New York City.
Budweiser also built an Opening Day microsite which offers Cubs fans a chance to win tickets for future games at Wrigley Field.
In New York, the Bud-branded stadium experience pop-up has been erected at the corner of Houston and Lafayette Streets, plus it features station hotdog vendors around several city neighborhoods. These vendors are also giving away tokens to redeem for a free beer at nearby bars (to fans over the age of 21).
A further strand of Bud’s Opening Day festivities sees the US beer giant run a social media contest which offers a small number of lucky fans a once-in-a-lifetime chance to throw the first pitch for their favorite team to start the season.
The contest’s mechanic sees that brand asking Twitter users to tweet the #BudPitchYourPitch and #Sweepstakes hashtags and tag its @BudweiserUSA handle to enter the contest which runs between 1 and 30 April.
This Opening Day we’re giving you a chance to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for your favorite team. Pitch us for a chance to win!
— Budweiser (@budweiserusa) April 1, 2021
.@MLB fans, this Opening Day we’re giving you the chance to win the prize of a lifetime.
— Budweiser (@budweiserusa) March 31, 2021
These MLB league-wide activations run in parallel with several Budweiser team-specific initiatives with those baseball franchises with which the beer brand has team sponsorships.
This team-specific MLB new season work includes a limited edition set of team label Rally Buds.
It’s time to rally for @RaysBaseball!
— Budweiser (@budweiserusa) March 30, 2021
— Budweiser (@budweiserusa) March 29, 2021
New York opens the season with spectators being limited games to 20% of stadium capacity, while the Chicago Cubs are only selling 9,000 tickets to the 41,000-seat Wrigley Stadium.
Despite these restrictions, these pop-ups indicate that some sports marketers in the USA are now again focusing on in-person, experiential and in-site activation following on from the almost exclusively digital and virtual activation during the pandemic.
While the first pitch sweepstakes sees Budweiser seek to reach younger adults who have used Twitter to stay on top of the news and current trends in recent months and to boost the brand’s own @BudweiserUSA followers.
This fresh MLB activation strategy reflects AB InBev’s attempts to refresh its marketing playbook with changes that have ranged from not running Budweiser commercials during the Super Bowl for the first time in 37 years, redirecting its media marketing dollars to cause initiatives from water relief to COVID-19 vaccine awareness and also its recent sponsorship of a six-episode sports-themed ‘Not A Sports Show’ talk show on mobile streaming video platform Ficto.