Bud Light's 50 Concerts In 50 States Initiative - Did It Work? (Exclusive)
This story first appeared in the new Billboard
Pick-up this issue here; get your subscription

For its first attempt to host 50 concerts in all 50 states on the same day, Bud Light had modest goals for the audience it wanted to reach as part of 50/50/1, a nationwide event held Aug. 1 to celebrate its Bud Light Music First program. As part of a live-stream deal for five of those concerts with Myspace, the client told its web partner that its most aggressive goal was to hit two million streams from one million unique users with an average ten minutes spent per viewer.

By night’s end, Bud Light and Myspace soared past that benchmark with 2.5 million streams, close to 1.5 million unique viewers and over 13 minutes spent per viewer. That’s in addition to the 240,000 downloads of the Bud Light app, which hosted 337,000 plays of the Music First game (including 245,000 wins), the 525,000 fans who engaged with a Bud Light post on Twitter or Facebook and the 52,000 collective attendees at the 50 concerts – averaging more than 1,000 fans apiece.

Bud Light Teams With Live Nation, MySpace, Universal For 50 Concerts in 50 States

In one day, Bud Light managed to reach an audience and build enough buzz that many brands take weeks or even months to amass. Case in point: Pop Tarts partnered with Live Nation last summer for a series of concerts that, over the course of two months, helped the brand gain 250,000 new fans on Facebook and a 5% sales gain during second quarter. Like Pop Tarts, Bud Light used national TV and radio advertising to promote the program, with an ad spend that could total as high as $29 million, based on what the brand spent on measured media during second-quarter 2012, according to Kantar Media. 

Rob McCarthy, VP of Bud Light, credits promoter partner Live Nation for pulling off the scale and reach of the ambitious event. “Probably no one else on the planet could pull of an event with us like this,” he says. “I certainly didn’t have enough people to cover all 50 states.”

Initial planning for 50-50-1 began in late 2012, with the booking of the concerts kicking off in late spring once Live Nation had a sense of which artists would be on tour this summer. National TV ads for the program started hitting the air in May, along with more than 85 million Music First-branded packages hitting retail at over 90,000 locations.

“A lot of times brands will have a big idea, but then they don’t utilize their marketing muscle to really bring it to life,” says Russell Wallach, president of Live Nation Network, the promoter’s sponsorship arm. “What was great about this is that Bud Light not only embraced the idea but they truly put the resources behind it to make it work.”

Some of the archived live streams from the 50/50/1 performances available on Bud Light's Music First Myspace hub. (Screenshot)

Concert highlights included Dierks Bentley in New York City, indie-rockers Portugal, The Man. playing their home state of Alaska, Butch Walker in Chicago, The Flaming Lips in Las Vegas and Miguel playing a hometown show at Los Angeles’ Palladium. “It was really cool to be part of such a diverse lineup — there’s not too many things that are new and fresh and daring,” Miguel says of his Music First involvement.  Having spent most of the year touring with Alicia Keys, headlining his return to L.A. was particularly significant to the singer. “The show was incredible – it’s been really awesome to play with other artists and get introduced to their fans, but there’s nothing like playing a show for your fans where they’re there just for you.”

Though sister brand Budweiser has its own music property, the Made In America festival that kicks off its second year Aug. 31, Bud Light is looking to carve its own path in music after decades of storied activity in sports. That’s why the 2014 version of Music First, for which Bud Light and Live Nation have already had advanced conversations, will be attached to “all the other things our brand does in music,” including festivals like Lollapalooza. “What we’re trying to figure out now is how to bring all of our assets together and bring more meaning to them,” McCarthy says.

As for other brands who might look to attempt something similar in terms of scope, Live Nation’s Wallach has a few tips. “When you work with a brand and they’re able to articulate not only their vision or what they wanna do but also specific metrics they’re looking for, it makes our job so much easier,” he says. “I have a team of about 10 people that were working on this 24/7 for a long period to make sure everything would be pulled off perfectly. From Bud Light’s TV to their media to their social strategy they literally put together the right resources to make this a successful program.”