Jackie Robinson’s impact on baseball was monumental. As the first player to break the color barrier in the Major Leagues in 1947, he carried the weight of integration on his back and did so with class. His accomplishments as a player and as an activist who helped usher in a new era in the US is something that won’t be forgotten.
Budweiser and the Jackie Robinson Foundation are making sure of it. In a year that marks Robinson’s 100th birthday, the two are releasing a short film by Spike Lee and a campaign that celebrates Robinson and his impact, plus a pledge to open the Jackie Robinson Museum in New York this year.
The moment Robinson walked onto Ebbets Field as a Brooklyn Dodger on April 15, 1947, he became an everlasting figure in American history. Born in 1919, this year marks the 100th birthday of a man who quite literally, changed the game and the cultural landscape.
To celebrate Robinson as an activist and American hero, Budweiser has partnered Lee and the Jackie Robinson Foundation to create ‘Impact,’ a season-long campaign that will spotlight Robinson's heroic achievements both on and off the field.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for a brand like Budweiser, with a decades-long connection to baseball, to take this moment and celebrate Jackie Robinson’s legacy ahead of opening day,” Ricardo Marques, group vice-president, marketing, core and value brands at Budweiser, told The Drum. “We knew this was a special year for baseball and we deliberately wanted to mark that moment. The first thing that we did was reach out to Spike Lee because we believe that he was the right person to partner with, not only because he’s a baseball fan himself, but he also has great admiration and respect for Jackie Robinson. He’s a friend of the Robinson family. We believed he was a key part of making this a reality.”
‘Impact’ is a three-minute effort directed by Lee and narrated by Robinson’s daughter, Sharon Robinson. The film – which will also appear nationally in a 60-second airing on Major League Basebell’s opening day – spotlights the moment Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier after more than 50 years of segregation in the sport.
While there has been a biopic of Robinson’s life, 42, Lee’s short film shows both his play on the field and how some of the people of the time most likely reacted to his groundbreaking efforts. It opens in a bar in 1947 where a crowd is gathered to listen to the radio broadcast of his first game. There is anticipation, then the crack of the bat as Robinson hits the ball, with an eruption of cheers.
Sharon Robinson says in the voice over, “Baseball is a game of impact…but in 1947 that impact was felt well beyond any field.”
Said Marques about the film: “We think that the message behind this film is timeless. We believe that his example and his story is equally inspiring today. This film is a beautiful connection between past and present. It’s also a beautiful connection between his accomplishments in the ballpark, as well as his impact outside of the ballpark. We wanted to make sure with this campaign that we not only pay tribute to the incredible athlete that he was, but also pay tribute to him in terms of the impact that he generated out of the ballpark as a beacon of hope for many people throughout the country.”
Said Lee in a release: “I’m honored to work with Sharon Robinson and Budweiser. All of us working in unison to pay homage to a great American who literally changed the game with the impact he made. Long live Jackie Robinson."
Real game footage was used in the film and Lee went so far as to gain the rights to use Red Barber’s announcement of the game.
“Spike Lee and his team went to great lengths to make sure that authenticity was an integral part of the film, from the wardrobe, to the voice we used from Red Barber to the setting, so you can see that weaved through the entire film,” said Marques.
The film also intersperses a re-creation of a group of people taking their respective oaths as new citizens of the US, one woman clad in Robinson’s 42 jersey, which shows that Robinson had an impact that went beyond baseball.
“The crack of his bat became the sound of hope,” Sharon Robinson continues in her voice over.
The film ends by showing people important to diversity and human rights movements, such as LGBTQ advocate Dustin Ross, human rights activist and writer Yin Q and advocate for Puerto Rican and human rights Nelson Antonio Denis, bringing in a wider discussion on unity and inclusion with these local advocates who are enacting change and progress every day through their own impact on local communities.
The conclusion shows a quote from Robinson, “A life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives.” The final screen is a toast raised by Budweiser, stating the famous Bud tag line, “This Bud’s for you, Jackie.”
“When we say ‘This Bud’s for you,’ it means that we recognize you. You are someone that shares the values that we believe in, you are someone that we respect. So, we believe that is a beautiful, elegant way [to say] ‘This Bud’s for you, Jackie’” said Marques.
He went on to say that Budweiser wants to “own opening day” and honoring Robinson and his legacy is a way to do that. “We believe that not only is this an amazing opportunity for us to penetrate the culture and add value by bringing a unique story, but also on the back of this campaign, we want to make sure that we realize the long-term dream from the Jackie Robinson Foundation to open the Jackie Robinson Museum in New York. That’s why part of the proceeds of the special edition bottles we created will be generating funds to make that dream a reality this year,” said Marques, who added that 42 cents from every limited edition Jackie Robinson Budweiser sold during the season will be donated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation to support their efforts across the country. Bud is calling on Americans to also donate to the Foundation to ensure Jackie’s legacy continues for generations to come.
While one can’t say for sure whether Robinson enjoyed a Budweiser, Marques said the brand likes to think that when people were listening to the radio broadcast of the game in 1947, they were cheering with Budweisers in their hands.
The campaign was created by Dentsu US, from packaging design, to film (in partnership with Spike Lee), to out of home. “The OOH, we loved it because it’s very dramatic. It highlights key words we thought were defining the entire campaign – hero, hope, glory, courage – and we just love the treatment, the stitching, the iconic shots of Jackie Robinson. We think that will play incredibly well,” said Marques.
See more of the work by clicking on the Creative Works box below, and follow Budweiser's social channels throughout the season for updates.