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'It takes a lot of courage to be silly': Bud Light's plan for England to utter 'Dilly Dilly'


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

August 22, 2018 | 8 min read

Despite being only one year old in the UK, the Bud Light brand has seized a substantial grasp of the beer market. This is on the back of an aggressive campaign pushing the eternally silly catchphrase 'Dilly Dilly'. To further solidify its position in the market, it has partnered with the England football men's senior team.

Since crossing the Atlantic, the AB InBev brand Bud Light has not dilly-dallied. In one year, it became the top growth driver for standard lager. Now it taps into England's young and exciting team, accompanying sister brand Budweiser’s wider support of the FA. As a result, football is now a cornerstone of its strategy. The aim is to emulate the partnership (and benefits) it has with the NFL in the US.

Low or non-alcohol beer will make up a fifth of all AB InBev sales by 2025. To deliver this, Aina Fuller, marketing manager of Bud Light UK, will align the brand with a team that performed well at the World Cup. Bud Light will build upon a renewed excitement around the side, and the so-called Southgate fever. You only have to look at how Southgate inspired greater sales of M&S waistcoats to understand what a connection to football brings to the table.

Its entry into the market was fuelled by the 'Dilly Dilly' creative, developed by Wieden+Kennedy. This was a stateside "gift" said Fuller. Its latest creative, 'The Wizard', gives a good idea of how it will ingratiate itself in the UK.

Budweiser (which temporarily rebranded simply as America several years ago) is a definitive American beer brand. By association, the same could be said of Bud Light. The England team opens the door to a new market and invites the Americans into one of the isles' most impassioned national conversations. Football.

The 'Dilly Dilly' creative features odd medieval sketches. Here the monarchs have an unhealthy obsession with the beer brand. Any tributes paid to the sitting king and queen better be crates of AB InBev's light beer - or else. The work is reminiscent of the ever-quotable Monty Python and the Holy Grail. As a result, 'Dilly Dilly' has seeded into the public consciousness. This is no accident. AB InBev has invested heavily in media to ensure this. Fuller said the team placed the creative in many channels to reach as many eyeballs as possible - this was, after all, Bud Light's big brand introduction. Apparently, 85% of the UK public should have seen 'Dilly Dilly' up to 20 times since launch.

Fuller said: "We've not got the awareness. We see on our social channels that people really are using [Dilly Dilly] in everyday celebrations. We also saw that people were appropriating the creative and are using phrases from the campaign in their own lives.

“When you lean into culture authentically with a catchphrase that's true to your brand personality so silly and irreverent. There's something magical about just take off.”

According to data from social analytics company Brandwatch, the #DillyDilly hashtag has appeared on social globally 140,000 times since September 2017.

It benefited from notable spikes during the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl. From a few mentions in September, the catchphrase bumped up to 7,800 mentions in October, 14,700 in November, 18,500 in December, to around 28,000 for January and February. Unsurprisingly, it gained 10,000 mentions 4 February, the day of the Super Bowl, largely driven by its new, zany creative.

Dillyl Dilly

Many people saw the work. They also responded positively to it. It generated a high 83.37% of positive mentions. Furthermore, sentiment may skew negative due to mentions of the infamous Bud Light ‘Pit of Misery'.

As Fuller said, sports fans have been urging rival teams to get in the pit. It came as a surprise in particular how the Pit of Misery played to UK sensibilities. Fuller hinted that mentions of the dungeon (from the Banquet creative above) in the UK is disproportionately high when compared to other markets.

To date, Dilly Dilly has driven 610m impressions globally on social. Although in the UK, the figures remain much more modest. 5,000 mentions have been logged all the momentum is behind it and this is projected to increase in the coming months.

“We have a very successful partnership with the NFL in the US. We were watching how Bud Light activates there. It gave us a lot of really great examples of how to authentically activate a franchise partnership. When we look to the UK, watching football with your friends is one of the biggest beer drinking occasions. The only way for us to grow was to be culturally relevant,” said Fuller.

To do so, Bud Light has partnered with footballers like Ian Wright, Jermaine Jenas, Chris Smalling and Stephen Gerrard to promote Bud Light and wish a 'Dilly Dilly' to fans. Fuller even boasted of organic usage of the hashtag from Charlton FC and Liam Gallagher. Now it also boasts England’s young team.

In penning the partnership, AB InBev switched out Budweiser from the partnership (already an established voice in football and a sponsor of the FA and the World Cup). The Bud Light brand has the chance to be more irreverent in sport, more akin to a Paddy Power. Through Southgate’s team, Bud Light has found a “credible” way to speak to a new audience.

“We've tried to intentionally evolve a really strong voice on social that is totally on tone with what you see in the TV commercial and just really cheeky and irreverent and celebratory.”

But humour is subjective. And difficult. And apparently harder to nail in the UK. Fuller said: “It takes a lot of courage to be silly and I think in the UK where humour is arguably the most developed in the world, here, to be funny - you have to be really, really good.”

Like it – or hate it – 'Dilly Dilly' is memorable. Fuller noted that Bud Light came to market with the mentality and swagger of a big brand, despite being a new player. This granted it momentum and allowed it to lean into its absurdist personality which created an enviable differentiation point against rivals.

The England team’s charisma and ability, paired with Bud Light's personality, and Budweiser’s involvement with The FA, would ideally activate a “halo effect” around the beers. The goal is to create a “megabrand” around Bud Light and Budweiser, likely how Coke, and its variants activate.

On the back of the partnership, Bud Light will increase its presence at Wembley Stadium, rolling out brand advertising and a take-over of Club Wembley bars.

It is no surprise that the light variant has been granted such a platform. ‘Light’ beers are projected to be a growth sector. On this Fuller, said: “We see a lot of people turning towards alcohol moderation. This is health and well-being consciousness. We see it across every age category but most notably among the 18- to 24-year-olds. They're looking for alternatives to traditional beer that are light and refreshing and you know allows them to still flex and be active in their lifestyle.”

Showing how desirable the England partnership is, before dropping it earlier this year, Carlsberg held it for 22 years. During this time, the side arguably underperformed with some early exits from major tournaments. In the end, Carlsberg moved away from the partnership to focus on marketing positions that would help it drive into a more premium arena, fronted by actor Mads Mikkelsen who is teaching the world, 'The Danish Way'.

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