Bud Light Platinum is trying to bring some sexy back to the beer aisle.
The A-B InBev brand -- a line extension with higher alcohol content that launched last year aimed at nighttime party drinkers -- has inked a deal with singer Justin Timberlake, who will star in ads and serve as a creative and musical curator for the brand.
Mr. Timberlake's debut ad for Platinum will run during the 55th annual Grammy Awards, which will be broadcast on CBS on Sunday. The partnership comes after the singer released "Suit and Tie," the first single from his upcoming third third solo album, "The 20/20 Experience," which marks his return to the studio after a six-year hiatus (during which there was speculation from fans that he might abandon music in order to focus on acting).
The ad, a 60-second spot dubbed "Platinum Night," will feature "Suit and Tie."
"Bud Light Platinum brings a refined, discerning aesthetic to beer that plays well with what I'm doing," said Mr. Timberlake in a statement. "I'm looking forward to not only being a part of the creative process, but in bringing other talented musicians to the forefront as well."
"Justin Timberlake is one of the greatest creative minds in the entertainment industry, and his insights will help us further define Bud Light Platinum's identity in the lifestyle space," said Paul Chibe, VP-U.S. marketing, Anheuser-Busch, in a statement. "Since launching Bud Light Platinum last year, we've worked to align the brand closely with music, including leveraging tracks by Kanye West and Avicii in our first ads. Partnering with Justin as he makes his return to music brings a new level of relevance and credibility to the brand."
The move was brokered by Bud Light agency Translation, whose uber-connected founder Steve Stoute has worked with Mr. Timberlake in the past, linking the star to McDonald's for its popular "I'm Loving It" campaign.
Partnering with Mr. Timberlake is part of a broader effort by A-B InBev to infuse more music in its marketing under the leadership of Mr. Chibe. Last year the brewer paired Budweiser with rapper Jay-Z, who curated and headlined a summer music festival in Philadelphia called "Made In America." The music mogul appeared in Bud ads related to the event, which is being made into a film by Hollywood heavy hitters Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.
(Jay-Z is an investor in Translation, which was founded by Mr. Stoute, a former record exec.)
Bud Light's Super Bowl ads this year featured Stevie Wonder, while the brand's multicultural spots by LatinWorks have spotlighted Cuban-American hip-hop artist Pitbull. Still, the most successful of A-B InBev's Super Bowl spots this year, according to various ad scoring systems, was more of an old-school play plugging Budweiser with the brewer's iconic Clydesdales, which returned to center stage after playing more of a supporting role in recent years. (The soundtrack for that ad was the Fleetwood Mac classic "Landslide.")
But in an age where millennial consumers are increasingly determining the fate of big alcohol brands, the brewer seems determined to lend some urban, hipster cache to its brews with line extensions such as Budweiser Black Crown, which just hit stores, and Platinum. Both of the new beers have 6% alcohol by volume, compared with 4.2% for regular Bud Light and 5% for Budweiser.
Platinum, in particular, has a musical focus. The brand was launched in 2012 with a Super Bowl ad featuring the Kanye West song "Runaway." And Platinum's Twitter feed routinely links to style and music news, such as a recent tweet alerting fans to a remix of a Ludacris song.
The early returns are good, with Platinum recognized by neutral observers as a highly successful beer launch. Platinum already ranks as the 14th-largest beer brand in the U.S. with $387 million in sales at stores in the 52 weeks ending Dec. 30, according to SymphonyIRI.
But for big beer debuts, year two is always critical, as the newness buzz fades and marketers rely more on repeat purchases. The signing of Mr. Timberlake signals that A-B InBev plans to continue to pour big marketing bucks into the brand, even as it dedicates resources to Budweiser Black Crown, which got two Super Bowl ads. (From January through November of last year, the brewer spent $32.1 million in measured media on Platinum, according to Kantar Media.)
The Timberlake deal comes as the singer continues to tighten his bond with marketers of all stripes. He is an investor in Specific Media, which bought MySpace from News Corp. in 2011. (Notably, Bud Light tapped MySpace this year as a digital partner for its "Bud Light Hotel" music event in New Orleans during the Super Bowl.) In 2011, Mr. Timberlake was named a creative director at Callaway Golf. His booze experience includes launching his own tequila brand, 901 Silver. Years ago he even appeared in a responsibility ad for Budweiser when he was with 'N Sync that can still be found on YouTube.
In making a big music play, A-B InBev is following a path taken by big soda brands. For instance, one of Coca-Cola's long-term goals has been increasing younger fans, as part of which its launched a multi-year music-themed campaign. It also comes as the Diet Coke brand named Taylor Swift as a celebrity spokesperson and marketing partner -- widely seen as Coca-Cola's response to Beyonce being named brand ambassador for Pepsi.