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644 goals, 644 bottles, 1 iconic moment: how Budweiser & Copa64 celebrated Messi's record

Historic moments are an opportunity for brands to join the conversation, but Budweiser chose to shape the narrative.

Copa90 won three categories at The Drum Awards for Social Media in 2021, taking home ‘Travel, Leisure or Sports’, ‘Best Influencer Campaign’ and ‘Best Viral Campaign’. Its work for Anheuser-Busch InBev celebrated a record-setting goal from Lionel Messi, putting the Budweiser brand at the heart of the conversation. Read on to find out how.

In 2020, Lionel Messi was on the verge of breaking Pele’s 46-year-old record of scoring 643 goals for a single club. Budweiser wanted to raise awareness of their association with Messi, owning the 644 moment by creating a spike in conversation – all while keeping their product at its heart. Moments like these represent opportunities for brands to be a part of an iconic celebration, but the challenge is to not get lost in the noise.

We flipped the script by focusing on the goalkeepers, celebrating all 160 keepers Messi had scored against and their part in pushing Messi to greatness.

We produced custom Budweiser bottles for Messi’s 644 goals. Each personalized for one of the 160 keepers it was scored against, with the goal number they represented and a revamped version of the Budweiser creed – including a special tribute to the qualities that have characterized Messi’s career.

As soon as the 644th goal went in, the bottles and a media toolkit were distributed globally, with over 50 influencer partners and over 150 goalkeepers primed.

The campaign took on a life of its own, with memes spiraling off influencer posts, kickstarting an avalanche of coverage across the world.

Without any paid media, Budweiser became the most talked about drink globally over the Christmas period, with online search for Budweiser doubling on 24th December compared to the previous 30-day average. The campaign returned $20m of social media value back to the brand. Owning 40% of all conversation about the new record, it generated over 1,200 news articles across 84 countries.

Strategy

Social listening showed that every move Messi made started a huge conversation. To cut through the noise and widen the campaign appeal, we flipped the script by focusing on an exclusive union of athletes that share a collective bond: the goalkeepers. They are the pitch’s last line of defense, and without them, there would be no record to set. We also knew the keepers were unified in their respect for Messi, which acted as a catalyst for a collective movement.

Research told us that the number of keepers he had opposed in order to score a record number of goals was high. We knew goalkeepers rarely had a voice during these moments, leading us to our creative way in which to make them part of the record.

We would celebrate all 160 keepers Messi had scored against, with a custom Budweiser for every one of his 644 goals. Each personalized to the keeper it was scored against with several keepers receiving multiple bottles (Iker Casillas received 17!), all celebrating their part in Messi’s rise to greatness.

The goalkeepers would then have the opportunity to tell their own stories through our platform, commemorating their part in history and driving local relevance. This widened the appeal of the campaign beyond one man and club and engaged football fans across the globe.

50 partners from 11 markets were lined up across Messi fan groups, Argentina and Barcelona fans and broader football fans. Insights from previous Budweiser activity identified partners that had an existing affinity to Budweiser, while also leveraging partners indexed to competitor brands for a ‘capture-all’ approach to drive ownership of this pivotal, unmissable moment in sport.

Preparation was key, with asset adaptations created for every social platform. With people at home scrolling through feeds, the ‘reactive’ content needed to be native to online platforms, thumb-stopping and easily shareable. Localized copy ensured local relevance, whilst a range of content generated campaign longevity beyond the moment itself.

Specially designed labels were developed using direct object printing and numbered from one to 644. Budweiser’s Global Innovation and Technology Center used its in-house direct object printing capabilities to print bottles with ink and varnish applied directly to the glass, creating a unique ‘no label’ look.

The technology also handles digital embossing, giving a tactile effect. The bottles, which also had a limited retail run with standard label decoration, were marked with several unique flourishes. These included a ‘Messi King of Football’ tag, and a revamped version of the Budweiser creed, a special tribute to the qualities that have characterized Messi’s monumental career.

A global media toolkit was created for publishers, with a robust media and influencer plan to ensure maximum earned exposure.

With everything ready to go, Budweiser started the countdown ahead of everyone else, from five goals out.

As the record was broken, the toolkit and the bespoke bottles were distributed to ensure posting on social media within three days, with over 50 influencer partners and 100 goalkeepers primed.

Budweiser owned channels posted thumb-stopping social content, which Messi then shared in one of his highest ever performing brand posts on Instagram. Goalkeepers such as Buffon, Casillas, Kepa and Oblak shared receipt of their bottle and toasted Messi on social media. They told their story in exclusive interviews with global football titles, going live as the record was broken to kickstart the conversation and drive attention.

Results

The campaign took on a life of its own, with memes spiraling from influencer posts, kickstarting an avalanche of coverage across the world. Specific clubs and locations tailored the story in honor of their favorite goalies. The campaign became unmissable across social, news and media outlets.

Without any paid media support, Budweiser became the most talked about drink, globally, over the Christmas holiday. Owning 40% of all conversation around Messi’s record and with zero paid media, it generated over 1,200 news articles across 84 countries, with 3bn earned impressions.

With over 26m views on social media and 1m engagements, the campaign returned $20m of social media value back to the brand. Online search for Budweiser (overall) doubled on the 24th December compared to the past 30 day average.

Budweiser overtook many other major brands associated with Messi, with 30% of all articles including Budweiser in the headline.

The campaign also generated reaction videos created by football fan pages on YouTube and a huge array of memes relating to the campaign and fans creating their own bottles, sparking its own coverage.

This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for Social Media. To find out more, including which competitions are currently open for entry, visit The Drum Awards website.

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