How Budweiser is helping the 49ers keep Millennials in the ballpark

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Social-media walls, DJs and giant selfies help keep distracted fans engaged.

Getting an 11-year-old to sit through nine innings of baseball is a challenge, which is why most MLB ballparks now feature distractions such as mini batting cages, Ferris wheels or a slide that winds through a giant bottle of Coca-Cola.

Now, the San Francisco 49ers and Budweiser have teamed up to help persuade Millennials, arguably the most distracted generation in history, to sit through a football game. Since Levi's Stadium opened in the heart of tech country last year, Bud Light has been working with veteran experience agency George P. Johnson on a branded zone in the stands to give connected fans a sponsored space to enjoy their devices, their friends and possibly the game — if you care enough to score a seat with views of the gridiron.

The new Bud Light Patio opened for business this season, complete with live social-media feeds, brand ambassadors, a party pit, a DJ and hangout areas where you can’t even see the field. Campaign US talked to Ryan Mee, creative director at George P. Johnson and head of the project, to see how fans are reacting and what the brand team has learned so far.

Who is the target audience of the patio, and are they showing up?
The patio, located above the south end zone, was designed to enhance the social aspect of the in-stadium viewing experience. Everybody is welcome to hang out there, but the entertainment is aimed at Millennials. It is working – the whole patio is packed from halftime through the end of the games with lots of young people, and there is plenty of socializing.

How are fans reacting to the social-media screens?
A live interactive wall shows moderated social content using the hashtags #BudLight and #BudLightPatio streamed from Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter in real-time. Selfies seem to be big. You see a lot of people taking selfies in front of the mural wall then posting them and running to the interactive wall to see if their posts get streamed. The stream is mainly set up as a listening post; it isn’t really an online conversation between fans and people posting for Bud Light.

Are you collecting data on people who digitally interact with the patio?
Another agency is handling that as well as moderating the posts being streamed on the interactive wall.

What surprised you about the way the branded patio fits in with the overall stadium experience?
The importance of the DJ. Local DJs have a stage in the patio, and they play music at halftime, during breaks in the game and after the game is over. Well, at halftime, the game announcer sometimes gives a shout-out to "the DJ on the Bud Light patio" on the Jumbotron while the DJ’s music is piped to the entire stadium. So everybody knows that this is a cool place to congregate, and at the end of the game lots of fans gravitate to the patio and the music.

Is it true that from some parts of the patio you can’t see the action of the game? Is that smart?
Yes, from some seats you can’t see the field of play, but those seats are never empty. It’s for friends who might have come with diehard fans, but maybe who are not so big on football.

But these half-hearted fans like the party scene?
Yes, we’re providing them with a fun time. We were a bit surprised at how many of them there are.

After seeing the branded patio in action, is there anything that you’ve learned that could strengthen the marketing?
Maybe play up the hashtags more to encourage people to use the tags in their posts about the game and with their photos.


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