How Bud Light pulled off giving free beer to thousands of Philadelphia Eagles fans

Bud Light gave away free beer at the Super Bowl parade in Philadelphia

If you were one of the two million people at the Super Bowl parade in Philadelphia on Thursday, chances are you spotted countless Eagles fans walking the streets with a can of Bud Light in their hand.

That’s because Bud Light - begrudgingly or not - made good on its promise to provide the city with free beer if the Eagles won the Super Bowl. The brand pledged the suds to offensive tackle Lane Johnson back in August after he vowed to “give out beer to everybody” if his team were to win the game.

It was a risky promise to make, especially for a city whose fans aren’t exactly known for their poise or restraint. But it was one that Bud Light seemed determined to follow through with, even if it meant figuring it the logistics of it all within a matter of days.

With the game on Sunday and parade on Thursday, the brand only had about 72 hours to figure out how exactly it would go about providing mass amounts of free beer to Eagles fans while they celebrate the team's first-ever Super Bowl win.

Of course, the AB InBev brand did some pre-planning ahead of the Super Bowl to prepare for the likelihood of an Eagles win against the New England Patriots. In the days leading up to the game, Bud Light contacted Grandesign, an out-of-home media solutions company, to see if the firm would be able to help the brand make its promise a reality.

“Bud Light called us as the game got closer and asked if we could help support the effort of providing beers to the city of Philly when and if the Eagles did win,” said Kelly Reynolds, Grandesign’s vice president of experiential marketing. “Grandesign often gets called for challenging and never-been-done-before style activations, so this was an obvious fit.”

Once the Eagles officially clinched the win, Reynolds said it was only a matter of hours until Grandesign was tasked with putting a plan into action.

“First thing Monday morning, we had a call scheduled and all of the parties that be - everyone from the Bud Light brand team to our team as well as the distributors - got on the phone and started rapidly planning,” she said. “Of course we jumped right into action and created a strategy of the best ways to responsibly do this throughout the city.”

While there were multiple ways Bud Light could have executed its hefty promise, the brand decided to provide 36 bars throughout the city - most of them along or near the parade route - with extra stocks of beer. Dozens of brand ambassadors scattered across participating bars were tasked with checking IDs and handing out tokens, which could be traded for one free Bud Light. Ambassadors were also asked to stamp the hands of those who received tokens to prevent people from trying to go back for more.

To encourage Eagles fans to “celebrate responsibility,” Bud Light also partnered with Lyft to offer riders a $10 voucher for their next ride. Anyone who retrieved a free Bud Light throughout the day was handed a card with a Lyft promo code that could be used to get the discount.

According to Grandesign senior producer Elisabeth Wilson, who was on the ground for the parade to ensure everything ran smoothly, the day essentially went by without a hitch.

“Based on the feedback we’ve gotten so far, everyone has absolutely loved it,” she said. “Coming from a production and events side of things, it was crazy, but as seamless as a job like this could go.”

However, that’s not to say there weren’t concerns on her part before the event. Considering the city dealt with pole climbing, window smashing and 'trust falling' fans during post-Super Bowl street celebrations, Wilson says there were some concerns that the parade would become unruly as well.

“A lot of people were a little bit apprehensive because of some of the rioting we saw after the initial win, but I think people were just a lot more celebratory [at the parade] - kind, gentle, happy, in high spirits. I think the Bud Light factor only added to that.”

By late afternoon on Thursday, Wilson said that Bud Light’s early estimates showed that anywhere between 20,000 and 30,000 of the 40,000 beers it allotted for the event were given away to parade-goers.

While the free beers were handed out inside of bars only, many fans took their Bud Light outside to enjoy the parade and surrounding revelry, which quickly resulted in the city being blanketed by the brand’s signature blue hue.

Inside Opa, one of the bars along the parade route that participated in the giveaway, bartender Moira Cahill said patrons had heard of Bud Light’s plans and were excited to get their hands on a complimentary can.

“Everyone knew about it,” she said. “It’s been a good thing.”

While it might be too early to tell if Bud Light’s carefully orchestrated plan to pick up at least some of Philly’s bar tab was a surefire success, Reynolds thinks it was a laudable effort since it gave the brand a chance to connect with Eagles fans in an authentic way.

“Given a job like this, things went as well as they possibly could,” she said. “From my perspective, this is a really unique way that Bud Light got to interact with fans. This started back in August, so I think it was a very fun thing that was followed by many fans throughout the NFL season. It seemed to be a very organic and natural way for the brand to support the city of Philly.”

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