Lowdown: A-B InBev Dives Deeper Into Country Music

The 'Budweiser Country Club' Debuts at Stagecoach

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The Lowdown is Ad Age's weekly look at news nuggets from across the world of marketing, including trends, campaign tidbits, executive comings and goings and more.

Budweiser Country Club
Budweiser Country Club  Credit: Budweiser

Bud is going country. The King of Beers today announced the "Budweiser Country Club," a three-level structure that will be erected at four live country music events this summer, starting with Stagecoach Festival in Indio, Calif., in late April. The club will include elevated views and two 20-foot bars. Bud also signed new deals with country acts Florida Georgia Line and Thomas Rhett. The brew will sponsor Florida Georgia Line's "Dig Your Roots" nationwide tour and also make an online video content series with the band.

"Country is going to be a much bigger focus," Eelco van der Noll, U.S. VP-experiential marketing at Anheuser-Busch InBev, said during a presentation Tuesday at a conference in Chicago hosted by sponsorship consultancy IEG. Mr. van der Noll also teased a big e-sports deal the brewer will announce next week that he said involved ESL (an e-sports organization) and Twitch, a site that streams video game competitions.

E-sports is also emerging as a popular marketing tool for Taco Bell. Chris Brandt, the fast feeder's chief brand and concept officer, at the IEG conference touted a program Taco Bell launched late last year called the Indie Game Garage. The initiative asks game developers to share gameplay footage of their game-in-the-making for a chance to get $500 in Taco Bell gift cards and gain access to a private forum of gaming industry experts who will share advice. "Gaming is a place that we want to be intrinsically tied to," Mr. Brandt said.

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Brand activation -- which essentially includes marketing activities outside of traditional and digital advertising and trade promotion -- is a massive and growing part of advertisers' budgets, much larger than traditional and digital advertising, according to data unveiled at the Association of National Advertisers' 2016 Brand Activation Conference. U.S. brand activation spending hit $561.5 billion in 2015 and should jump 6% to top $595 billion in 2016, according to PQ Media, which did months of research to define and analyze brand activation. Brand activation marketing accounted for 59.8% of overall marketing expenditures, followed by traditional and digital measured advertising spending at 25.2% and trade promotions at 15%. The U.S. Brand Activation Marketing Forecast 2016 projected that activation spending will exceed $740 billion by 2020. Brand activation spending will keep outpacing spending on advertising and trade promotions over the next four years, ANA and PQ Media predict.

PQ broke brand activation into six platforms and 32 different channels. Relationship is the largest marketing platform, followed by influencer, promotional, content, experiential and retailer. Content marketing, including product placement, is growing the fastest. The automotive industry is the biggest user of brand activation marketing, having spent $54.5 billion last year, PQ Media said. ANA said it plans to release the report to members in May.

(From l.) Johnny Rockets logo old and new
(From l.) Johnny Rockets logo old and new Credit: Johnny Rockets

Johnny Rockets has long positioned itself as a '50s-era diner with burgers and shakes, and now it is giving itself a makeover for its 30th anniversary. The new look includes an updated logo, a more modern design with dark wood and white brick, an open kitchen area and a 21st-century version of a soda fountain -- Coca-Cola's Freestyle machine. The chain said it worked with branding and design firm WD Partners on the Johnny Rockets 2.0 look. "We implemented a logo-rebranding research study to determine what millennials and non-millennials thought about Johnny Rockets. We learned, in part, that the majority of users of the brand were passionate about our food and great service, but admitted that the brand needed an update," Johnny Rockets Chief Marketing Officer Joel Bulger said in a statement. The first location with the new look is a corporation restaurant in the Destiny USA mall in Syracuse, N.Y., that opened in mid-April.

The 'Rinse.Recyle.Reimagine' campaign
The 'Rinse.Recyle.Reimagine' campaign Credit: Unilever

When it comes to recycling, toiletry bottles get no respect, as Unilever sees things. So, just in time for Earth Day on Friday, the company is reupping its commitment to its "Rinse.Recyle.Reimagine" campaign, complete with social media images of Unilever bathroom bottles holding up little picket signs to protest how overlooked they are compared to their kitchen counterparts. Candace Cameron Bure, Emmy-nominated co-host of ABC's "The View," will lead a team of "influential voices to stand up for the forgotten bathroom bottles," according to Unilever. The effort extends Unilever's national sponsorship of the "I Want to Be Recycled" public service campaign, begun in 2013. Created by Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council, the effort has gotten more than $123 million in donated media support and been seen or heard by nearly 40% of the U.S. population, according to Unilever, whose involvement helps explain why the generic body-wash bottle that does get recycled in one ad looks so much like Dove Men+Care.

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Jaguar is continuing its "British Villains" campaign with a new spot starring British actors Tom Hiddleston and Nicholas Hoult and directed by Tom Hooper. The creative agency is Spark44. Mr. Hiddleston appeared with Mark Strong and Ben Kingsley in another villain-themed spot that debuted in the Super Bowl in 2014. Here is the new ad:

Lowdown ends with a couple executive moves …

Shiseido Americas has named Jill Scalamandre president of its newly created New York-based Global Makeup Center of Excellence. Ms. Scalamandre was previously chief marketing officer of Coty skincare and senior VP of that company's Philosophy brand. She assumes the new role for Tokyo-based Shiseido on July 21, reporting to Marc Rey, CEO of Shiseido Americas. The job oversees innovation for existing color cosmetics brands, creating new ones and other "transformational projects," according to Shiseido.

Australian retailer Cotton On Group is saying "G'day, mate" to Gap veteran Anthony Gardner. The clothier has hired Mr. Gardner to help grow its U.S. business. He comes on board as head of marketing and e-commerce for the Cotton on Group USA after 20 years at the San Francisco-based Gap. While Cotton On Group has over 1,400 stores globally, the retailer is working to increase its fleet of 121 U.S. locations, which are primarily located on the West Coast.

Contributing: E.J. Schultz, Jessica Wohl, Adrianne Pasquarelli, Jack Neff

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