New stadium for Bud Bowl: The Internet

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Hoping to inject some novelty into its 11-year-old Super Bowl promotion, Anheuser-Busch is bringing the Bud Bowl to the Internet.

The No. 1 brewer plans to dispense sweepstakes tickets and broadcast a showdown between Budweiser and Bud Light bottles during half-time of Super Bowl XXXIII on a specially designed Web site (www.budbowl.com).

That address, which will have links to other sports-related sites, is slated to go up Nov. 1.

A-B plans to run more cyber-related promotions in 1999, said Dan McHugh, director-retail sales promotions for A-B.

"We're trying to take the Bud Bowl to the next level" in a way that's "very relevant to our core consumers," Mr. McHugh said, adding that research has found 27% of its drinking base is Web-savvy.

Mr. McHugh said the brewer plans to give the program more extensive pre-Super Bowl marketing support than last year, when it spent an estimated $4 million.

Louis London, St. Louis, is handling the promotion; it's expected to work with DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, on national TV advertising for the effort.

The Internet experiment marks the latest evolution of the Bud Bowl, a reliable sales promotion for more than a decade. Initially, it was a Super Bowl ad bonanza; in the '94 contest, A-B ran four 60-second spots that starred Corbin Bernsen and Ahmad Rashad.

Partly because the campaign began getting musty, A-B started devoting its precious Super Bowl spots to new brand campaigns, a tack it will take again this year.

Starting with the '97 game, A-B teamed with snack and food retailers through coupon promotions. That year, it hooked up with Frito-Lay; for the last game it worked with Nabisco, Hillshire Farm & Kahn's and Hormel Foods Corp.

ENLISTING FRITO-LAY, SCHWAN'S

For the '99 game, the brewer is cross-merchandising with Frito-Lay again in convenience stores and with Schwan's Sales Enterprises, for Red Baron pizza, in grocery stores.

Despite all the added bells and whistles, Tom Pirko, president of consultancy Bevmark, argued the Bud Bowl is past its prime and doesn't help build the A-B brands.

"I don't think there's tremendous value in it," Mr. Pirko said. "I question its effectiveness."

HELPS PLACEMENT IN STORES

A West Coast wholesaler disputed that, saying Bud Bowl gave the beer and the A-B name prominent positioning in stores.

"It's very important to wholesalers from a retail standpoint," the wholesaler said. "It's not important from an advertising standpoint."

To build awareness of the Bud Bowl in bars, the brewer plans to take a 4-foot-high Bud Bowl trophy on a cross-country tour that will stop at major wholesalers, Mr. McHugh said.

Sweepstakes tickets bearing seat, row and section numbers will be available in beer packaging and at bars, and over the Internet. The winning section likely will be announced with an all-type "billboard-style" ad in the third quarter, Mr. McHugh said. Prizes include entertainment equipment.

Copyright October 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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