The One That Got Away: Giants Coach Bill Parcells

How We Lost the Big Tuna on Bud Bowl

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We all know that timing is everything.

This truism became even clearer to me as I read a recent news item saying former NFL coach Bill Parcells had agreed to be a part of the Coors Light mock-press-conference campaign.
Gill Duff is now CEO of Publicis New York and, in addition to Budweiser, has worked on beer accounts including Heineken, Molson and Coors.
Gill Duff is now CEO of Publicis New York and, in addition to Budweiser, has worked on beer accounts including Heineken, Molson and Coors.

It reminded me of my own dealings with Parcells and another brewery, Anheuser-Busch. While I was an account director on Budweiser at DMB&B in St. Louis, we developed advertising that would feature, or so we thought, the Big Tuna himself.

The year was 1992 and the teams at D'Arcy had spent the entire summer working on the next version of Bud Bowl, the Super Bowl promotion which drove a previously horrible beer month (January) into one of the best of the year. For Bud Bowl V we had planned another classic match-up between Budweiser and Bud Light -- only this time with live-action celebrity coaches. Previous Bud Bowls had exclusively featured animation and we were trailblazing into the still-new realm of mixing live-action footage with the animated bottles.

To coach the Budweiser team, we wanted a leader who embodied the gravitas and supremacy of the King of Beers itself. Who better than the just-retired coach of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, Bill Parcells? After months of planning, we landed an agreement with him.

But only two days before an elaborate production was set to begin shooting on the West Coast, the agency received word that Parcells was no longer interested.

Paul Stoddart, brand manager on Budweiser at the time, and I hopped a plane to New York to tell Parcells what a big mistake it would be to pass on this opportunity -- not to mention the incredible sling we'd be in if he said no.

Parcells agreed to meet with us in his office in Secaucus, N.J. He's a nice fella and couldn't have been friendlier. However, he also couldn't have been any more set in his decision. He would not coach in Bud Bowl V.

His reason? He told us he had arrived at his answer by asking himself, "Would Bill Walsh do it?" Bill Walsh, a class act, was once the coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Needless to say, this wasn't the answer we wanted to relay to St. Louis. Paul and I, standing on a Secaucus street corner, phoned into A-B and D'Arcy with the bad news. Of course, August Busch IV (brand director on Bud at the time) and Tom Sharbaugh (former A-B VP-brand management) issued a challenge, probably something along the lines of, "Don't come back without a replacement coach."

We redeemed ourselves by landing, in a matter of hours, a commitment from another New York football legend, Joe Namath, to coach Budweiser in the Super Bowl Sunday showdown. Thank God for air phones, because we were able to work the mighty A-B network of sports and entertainment contacts during the flight. By the time Paul and I landed, Broadway Joe was our man.

So back to timing and to 2007.

Bill Walsh, the legendary and charismatic coach, passed away July 30 at the age of 75.

A little over a week later, it was announced that Parcells agreed to appear in a funny beer campaign for Coors Light.

Coincidence? Did Parcells agree to appear in the Coors Light campaign because Walsh was no longer around to judge him? I really don't think so. My guess is he agreed because Walsh himself had appeared earlier in the same mock-press-conference campaign for Coors Light.

Which leads me again to timing. We never should have asked Parcells to coach in Bud Bowl V. We should have asked Walsh.

And if we had, Bill Parcells would have been an easy ask for Bud Bowl VI.
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