Bud Light spotlights Black-owned eateries in ‘Thursday Night Football’ ads

Dive Brief:

  • Bud Light is promoting Black-owned bars and restaurants that have faced financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic by highlighting them in a series of commercials during “Thursday Night Football,” according to an announcement emailed to Marketing Dive.
  • Each week, the “Bud Light Thursday Night Shoutout” profiles a Black entrepreneur who tells the story of how they started the business and shows their signature dishes. Bud Light selects restaurants to profile in the host cities of football games and plans to promote them on national broadcast and digital channels.
  • The campaign comes amid the dual crises of the pandemic and civil unrest due to racial injustice which have both taken their toll on Black Americans. As part of the campaign, Bud Light partnered with EatOkra, a directory app that shows ratings and reviews of nearby Black-owned restaurants, to urge viewers to seek and support those businesses.

Dive Insight:

“Bud Light Thursday Night Shoutout” positions the beer brand as a conscientious supporter of Black-owned businesses. Thousands of independent restaurants have closed temporarily because of pandemic restrictions, and it’s not clear if and when those businesses will ever see a full recovery. By promoting Black-owned restaurants, Bud Light is trying to help them survive as an important sales channel and build good will among those businesses owners and their customers.

Supporting Black-owned businesses is timely amid public discussions about racial inequality and wealth disparities that have grown more pronounced in recent months of protests surrounding police violence. At the same time, the pandemic has had a disproportionately negative effect on the Black community and businesses. More than 40% of Black business owners nationwide said they were out of business, compared with 15% of white business owners, a University of California Santa Cruz study found in April. Minority-owned businesses also struggled to obtain bailout financing from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), CNN reported.

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Bud Light is doing its part to promote those struggling businesses with its “Thursday Night Shoutout” effort, effectively giving these small businesses a national ad campaign during widely viewed games. The first profiles premiered last week during the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals game with a 30-second spot telling the story of Cleveland native Gregory Beckham, owner of the city’s Beckham’s B & M Bar B Que restaurants. Plus, the tie-up with EatOkra gives homebound consumers another way to find and support Black-owned businesses.

The campaign is another sign of how Bud Light has revamped its marketing in response to events that shape how consumers perceive brands. During the pandemic, many brands changed their messaging to emphasize how they help their communities. Bud Light initiated such an effort in March with its “Bud Light: Open for Takeout” push to help consumers find local bars and restaurants that remained open during lockdowns. Parent company Anheuser-Busch also redirected spending allocated for sports and entertainment to nonprofits working to combat the pandemic.

Anheuser-Busch cited the closure of bars and restaurants as having a negative effect on its revenue, which fell 18% to $10.3 billion in Q2 from a year earlier, per a quarterly announcement. As pandemic lockdowns lifted in key markets like China, the company started to see sales improve, including a 0.7% lift in beer volume in June from the prior year, CNN Business reported. The company is likely to see more improvement during the current quarter as lockdowns on bars and restaurants continue to ease in many regions worldwide.

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