Bud Lighticke: How Bud Light intercepted a missed opportunity to quickly partner with NFL quarterback Taylor Heinicke

Bud Light, IPG partner 3PM and in-house agency draftLine immediately gameplanned after the Washington Football Team quarterback mentioned the brand.

Fumble, Heineken. 

Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke was asked if beer brand Heineken ever reached out to him for a potential partnership after his team’s victory over the New York Giants on September 16. 

"I'm trying, man. I'm trying," Heinicke replied. "At some point, I might just start calling up Bud Light."

Bud Light didn’t hesitate to pounce on the opportunity. That afternoon, the beer brand tweeted it was "ready and waiting" to partner with Heinicke.

And eight hours after those words left Heinicke’s mouth, a deal was in place. 

Corey Brown, senior director of digital and earned media for Bud Light, said his team was immediately on the phone with 3PM, a specialist team created by holding company Interpublic Group inside Weber Shandwick to service the Anheuser-Busch InBev account, and draftLine, the in-house agency of Anheuser-Busch. The first priority was figuring out how to make the most of the opportunity.

After the partnership was in place, the team had to decide how to go live with the announcement and when, and also to make sure Heinicke and his team were on board with all of the plans.

Heinicke announced the partnership on his Instagram page after getting a care package from the brewer consisting of a hat, two 12 packs of Bud Light, one 12 pack of Bud Light Seltzer and three bottles of Bud Lights with the company's For the Fans promotion. The box had the words “Bud Lighticke” written on it.

Bud Light also tweeted about the partnership.

"One of the things we liked about this was that his last name rhymes with 'Bud Lighticke,' which was really fun for us," said Brian Williams, EVP and 3PM agency lead.

Brown said that Bud Light has received a strong response on social media. Over the weekend, one fan attended a football game at Heinicke's alma mater, Old Dominion, and wore a patch on his jersey that said "Bud Lighticke."

“We know we struck gold when our fans are hijacking the idea and making it their own,” Brown said.  

He added that fans have been thanking Bud Light for “taking a bet on their guy” and getting behind the Washington Football Team.

“As much as this was about highlighting [Heinicke] and our partnership, it is more so about propping up and supporting the Washington Football Team and their fan base,” said Brown.

Bud Light knew that if it didn’t move fast, it could have lost a great opportunity. Not every brand is able to activate this quickly, said Williams.

“You have to be in a position to get to a quick yes or no and not a long maybe,” he said. “You have to be able to move quickly from if we should do it to how we should be doing it.”

One secret: brands and agencies having a way to work together quickly to decide the role of the brand. For Bud Light, the mechanism of choice is WhatsApp.

“We have a WhatsApp group where the raw thinking gets shared the fastest,” said Williams. “It’s the most efficient way to have a conversation about these things with everyone who has a role in decision-making and approvals: brand, social, legal and agencies.”

A Heineken representative was not available for comment.

“We have not heard from Heineken and neither have the fans,” said Williams. “But for us, it is not about other brands, it is about doing something that adds value for the fans.”

This story first appeared on PRWeek US.


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