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The Way to Sell Beer – Pabst and Wade Boggs Show Bud Light How It’s Done in New Ad Campaign


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The saga of the Anheuser-Busch promotional debacle continues to swirl, with mounting boycotts and a growing tide of counter-activism taking place. Ted Lieu and Adam Schiff posed with Bud Light bottles in hand, looking about as natural doing so as Dylan Mulvaney looks like a natural woman. (Seriously, I’d be more inclined to turn away from a brand due to a Ted Lieu endorsement than I would a dude cosplaying as an overcaffeinated high schooler.)

There have also been some in the media weighing in, trying to ridicule those who are turning away from the beer. Taking things to one extreme was Axios, which takes a look at the backlash and decided to have a “Hold my beer” moment, taking up sides with Bud and the trans community in a non-partisan fashion. Co-founder Mike Allen and writer Eleanor Hawkins have literally suggested that if you are boycotting Bud Light then you want to harm trans individuals.

What this captures: The inflamed politics around transgender rights. The lack of perspective or grace from vocal transgender opponents. Remember the power imbalance. Trans issues are talked about a lot now. But trans people remain a small, largely marginalized group. For trans people, political issues are a matter of life and death. 

This is how out of balance all of this has become – our choice of beer brands can kill trans people.

As a tonic to the bat-crap craziness playing out, there is a new promotion for a competitor to Bud Light, and they are showing the way to do it. Pabst Blue Ribbon is kicking off a new ad campaign with Hall of Fame baseball legend Wade Boggs, and this is a lesson in how to get attention without resorting to political posturing and lectures condemning your customers.

Playing off the legend of Boggs being a machine who could consume copious numbers of beers during his baseball career, here he is claiming that back in the day an old animated advertising mascot used by Pabst – dubbed “Cool Blue” – was actually modeled after the ball player. Boggs is shown in this spot as an obsessive who is crafting theories, finding numerology evidence, and even constructing a “conspiracy wall” in order to prove that he is in fact the basis of Cool Blue.

This is the way to sell beer; sports, personality, humor. There is no hectoring of the beer drinkers, no display of virtue monologues to appease activists. There is not even a mention of a BL fumble. Just a straightforward appeal to an audience.

To lend some backstory as to why Wade Boggs is chosen here, he is a player with a legendary past. I am NOT referring to his HOF playing career, either. During his playing days, Boggs was renowned for consuming mass quantities of beer during team trips. Teammates from the era attest he is almost inhuman in his ability to throw back large amounts. One player recalled a road game where the stewardess arrived with a case of beer and Boggs placed it under his seat, declaring that it was all for him.

Then there is “The Flight”. One story attached to Boggs has him during a lengthy bi-coastal trip consuming an inordinate number of brews. Beginning in the locker room, then on the ride to the airport, he was already slugging them back. Then he continued on the flight, during a layover, and onward, all the way to California. Then, upon landing, he went out on the town with the guys, continuing his binge. The numbers are completely in question.

Was it 50? 70?? More??? This legend was immortalized in an episode of the cult sitcom “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”, where the storyline was the characters went on a cross-country flight and attempt to replicate the achievement. Boggs makes a cameo in the episode, building on his own myth in the process. Actor Charlie Day was on an appearance with Jimmy Fallon, and in discussing the episode he tells how at one point the ex-ball player took him aside and told him what the actual number had been.

Is this apocryphal? Sure, probably, but so what? Let the concept of a player at his peak being able to destroy over four cases of beer during a day-long journey remain. And let Pabst know that its promotional effort of sidestepping politics is the way to sell beer. If you want. I’m not in the position of dictating selections, but if you are in the market for a comparable alternative, why not give PBR a show of support for its approach?

Over the years A-B marketing has been a juggernaut in the advertising business. They built a brand into an institution and for years even topped the list of Super Bowl ads. It is a small wonder that the team over at PBR is showing the monolithic Budweiser teams how to do things correctly.

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