Bud Light Adds a Splash of Lime, a Dash of Santogold

A-B Hopes Up-and-Coming Singer Will Help Brand Extension Stand Out

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- The emerging pop star Santogold's mix of what Rolling Stone described as "electronic beats with punk guitars and New Wave synths" took the recent South by Southwest music festival by storm.
Santogold, aka Santi White, taking SXSW by storm.
Santogold, aka Santi White, taking SXSW by storm. Credit: AP

Now Anheuser-Busch is hoping that sound can sell some beer, too.

A-B is featuring Santogold's music in creative for Bud Light Lime, the light beer's first brand extension, which is targeting drinkers who would otherwise be knocking back Corona, Miller Chill or cocktails. The brewer is also giving away free downloads of a remixed Santogold track on its website.

Total first-year ad spending behind the brand -- which launched just a few weeks ago -- is projected at $35 million.

Santogold -- aka Santi White, a female vocalist whose multicultural sound got her a gig opening for Bjork -- offers a fairly striking contrast to the goofy chuckleheads typically featured in Bud Light creative, one of the reasons A-B executives say she's right for the brand.

"The music is really important in terms of getting a little separation from our main brand in Bud Light," said Rick Leininger, Bud Light's brand director.

Mr. Leininger credited Bud Light's ad agency, DDB, Chicago, with bringing Santogold to the brewer's attention. The shop's senior producer for music and integration, Gabe McDonough, said he focused on Santogold after asking her label, Downtown Records (best known for Gnarls Barkley), which artists it would be focusing its own promotional energy on this summer.

Santogold's self-titled debut record hit the market April 29, the same week as Bud Light Lime's launch.

"As soon as I heard Santogold, I said bingo," said Mr. McDonough, who was well aware of her status as one of the most talked-about acts at March's South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. "She's got a big, neon spotlight in the music world right now." (The Los Angeles Times wrote that "her beats pop like bubble wrap.")

Mr. McDonough set the ads to Santogold's music and then concocted the idea for a remix of her single "Lights Out" as a free website download. "We wanted the brand to provide an experience for people that they couldn't otherwise have," he said.

A-B is hoping this musical tie-in works better than its last. The brewer's 2006 decision to link Budweiser Select to a Jay-Z record -- even naming the hip-hop magnate co-brand director -- sold more records than beer.

Boosted by beer ads that treated the brand as a product placement in a music video, the album enjoyed a strong launch, while Bud Select sales continued to decline. Today, the once-national brand is only marketed in a limited number of major urban markets.

Mr. Leininger said he thinks the pairing of an emerging star with a fledgling brand may be a better fit. "It's basically two new brands coming together," he said.

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